A broken collarbone, or clavicle fracture, is one of the most common injuries that athletes face when competing in contact and even non-contact sports.
What is the clavicle? The clavicle is a long bone that runs between the scapula, or shoulder blade, and the sternum.
What causes clavicle fractures? A common cause of clavicle fracture is the stress that the collarbone suffers when a person stretches out his or her arm to break a fall; in this case, most of the weight of one's body is distributed to the collarbone, which can then snap under the pressure. Additionally, a fall directly to the shoulder area, or any direct blow to that region can cause a serious collarbone injury to an athlete.
Symptoms of clavicle fracture can include pain at the site of fracture, restricted arm motion, and discolored skin around the affected area. For serious collarbone injuries, you might be able to see the fracture because of the bone misalignment. A doctor will perform an X-ray to determine the severity and properly diagnose a clavicle fracture.
Who is likely to incur this type of injury? Athletes at all levels of competition, from football and cycling to equestrian and skateboarding. Clavicle fractures have been suffered by the likes of NFL quarterbacks Matt Leinart and Tony Romo and put out wide receiver Danny Amendola just this past NFL season.
How to avoid a collarbone injury? Though clavicle fractures, like any other types of bone fractures, are unavoidable in certain cases, there are steps that can be taken to lessen their likelihood and minimize the potential for risk.
- Ensure you intake the recommend amounts of Calcium and Vitamin D, nutrients that bolster bone integrity. Lacking these essential dietary components can put you at higher risk of clavicle fracture and could require longer recovery time.
- Develop the protective muscle tissue around the clavicle. Because the clavicle is supported by stabilizing muscles, those who do not get enough exercise to develop this protective muscle tissue may also have a higher change of clavicle fracture.
- Wear proper padding and protection during practice and competition.
What is treatment like? Treatment is relatively simple and usually does not require surgery. Additionally, recovery time is not terribly long - typically, healing will occur in about 2 - 4 weeks for children and 4 - 8 weeks for adults. For most sufferers of clavicle fractures, a cervical sling, splint, cervical brace or other type of support needs to be worn throughout the recovery process in order to restrict the fractured bone from moving.
MMAR Medical offers several different types of collar braces, including a hook-and-loop style that is buckled around the wearer's back, a front-closure splint that contains padding in the clavicle area, and a figure-eight splint with a prong buckle front closure. With the proper use of a brace, those who have suffered clavicle fractures can usually avoid surgery for their condition so long as the affected area is adequately protected and does not suffer any additional trauma.