What is the Clavicle (Collar Bone)?
The clavicle, also called the collar bone, is an important bone which connects our upper limb to the rest of our body. The clavicle (collar bone) connects the sternum (breast bone) from the axial skeleton to the scapula. The joint between the clavicle and the breast bone is called the sternoclavicular joint, whereas the joint to the scapula is referred to as the acromioclavicular joint. The clavicle also serves as protection to the neurovascular structures (nerves, arteries and veins) supplying the upper limb.
You can feel the clavicle easily. Its superficial location and the fact it transmits forces from the upper limb to the trunk mean the clavicle is one of the most commonly fractured bones in the human body.
Contact sports such as American football or rugby often see players sustaining a fractured clavicle. In addition, a fall onto an outstretched hand can also result in clavicle fracture as the force is transmitted up the arm to the clavicle. Patients may have multiple fractures from these injuries, for example, a fracture of the wrist and of the clavicle.
A fractured clavicle presents with the victim unable/struggling to lift their arm up into the air, with a lump/swelling over the clavicle. There may be significant bruising and swelling. In some cases, patients can have an open clavicle fracture where the broken clavicle has caused a wound in the skin. These injuries are serious and at high risk of infection.
What is the first aid treatment for a broken clavicle (collar bone)?
Treat clavicle fractures with a sling to support the upper limb, taking the weight of the arm off the remaining structures and send the victim to hospital or urgent care centre for an x-ray and specialist review.
Most broken clavicles will heal with a sling after several weeks. However, in some cases, surgery may be required in order to fix the broken bone.