What Is a Broken Collarbone?

The collarbone (also called the clavicle) is the bone that connects the breastbone to the shoulder. A broken collarbone, also called a clavicle fracture, is when this bone breaks.

How Does a Broken Collarbone Happen?

Falling hard on a shoulder or an outstretched arm can fracture a collarbone. This can happen in sports like football, lacrosse, hockey, biking, skateboarding, and skiing. It can also happen when a young child falls from playground equipment or out of a bed or crib. The collarbone also can break in a car crash or if someone is hit by a car.

Illustration: Broken Collarbone

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Broken Collarbone?

Someone who breaks a collarbone might have:

  • pain over the collarbone
  • trouble moving the arm or shoulder on that side
  • swelling, tenderness, and bruising along the collarbone
  • a bulge or "tenting" of the skin above the break

How Is a Broken Collarbone Diagnosed?

To diagnose a collarbone fracture, health care providers:

  • ask about the injury
  • do a physical exam
  • order X-rays

How Is a Broken Collarbone Treated?

Most broken collarbones heal with ice, arm support, pain medicine, and exercises. The arm is supported either by a sling or a shoulder immobilizer. A shoulder immobilizer is like a sling, but also has a strap that goes around the waist.

To care for your child while the collarbone heals:

  • Use ice for pain and swelling. Put an icepack, cold gel pack, or bag of frozen vegetables over the collarbone for 20–30 minutes every 2–3 hours. Be sure to put a towel between the ice/cold pack and your child's skin.
  • Use the sling or shoulder immobilizer as directed by your health care provider. Your child will wear it for about a month, but can remove it during bathing and sleeping.
  • Follow your health care provider's instructions on giving medicine for pain.

For about the first 4–6 weeks, your child should:

  • Avoid raising the arms higher than shoulder level.
  • Not lift anything that weighs more than 5 pounds (2.3 kg). This is about the weight of a 72-ounce bottle of liquid laundry detergent.
  • Stay out of all sports and physical education.
  • Do all exercises to prevent elbow and shoulder stiffness and to help with muscle strength.
  • Go to physical therapy, if needed.
  • Go to all follow-up doctor visits.

Call your health care provider if your child has pain or swelling that gets worse.

Will the Collarbone Heal Straight?

Even if the broken bones aren't perfectly lined up, the body usually can make them straight again. That's because the collarbone has a thick periosteum (outer layer of the bone). The collarbone periosteum doesn't usually break, so it acts like a sleeve to hold the bone together while it heals. Rarely, the doctor might recommend surgery if the broken bones are very out of line.

Sometimes, there's a bump where the bone broke. In kids who are still growing, the bump tends to get smaller and go away within a year. Sometimes the bump doesn't fully go away. But it doesn't hurt or cause other problems with the arm or shoulder.

When Can My Child Go Back to Sports?

Your health care provider will see your child again and let you know when it's OK to go back to sports. This is usually when:

  • There's no pain when the health care provider presses on the collarbone.
  • Shoulder strength is normal.
  • Your child can move and use the arm and shoulder without pain.

In general, kids can go back to noncontact sports (such as running or swimming) in about 6 weeks and contact sports (such as football, lacrosse, and hockey) in 8–12 weeks.

Looking Ahead

Most broken collarbones heal quickly and completely. Within a few months, your child should be able to do everything he or she did before the injury.

Back to Articles

Related Articles

Broken Bones

Many kids will have a broken bone at some point. Here's what to expect.

Read More

First Aid: Broken Bones

A broken bone needs emergency medical care. Here's what to do if you think your child just broke a bone.

Read More

How Broken Bones Heal

Broken bones have an amazing ability to heal, especially in kids. Full healing can take time, but new bone usually forms a few weeks after an injury.

Read More

Household Safety: Preventing Injuries From Falling, Climbing, and Grabbing

Here's how to help protect kids from a dangerous fall or a tumble into a sharp edge in your home.

Read More

First Aid: Falls

Although most result in mild bumps and bruises, some falls can cause serious injuries that need medical attention.

Read More

Broken Collarbone (Clavicle Fracture)

A broken collarbone is one of the most common types of broken bones. Find out how it can happen - and how to treat and avoid fractures.

Read More

Sports and Exercise Safety

Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how.

Read More

Dealing With Sports Injuries

You practiced hard and made sure you wore protective gear, but you still got hurt. Read this article to find out how to take care of sports injuries - and how to avoid getting them.

Read More

Preventing Children's Sports Injuries

Participation in sports can teach kids sportsmanship and discipline. But sports also carry the potential for injury. Here's how to protect your kids.

Read More

Strength Training

With a properly designed and supervised program, strength training can be a fun way for kids to build healthy muscles, joints, and bones.

Read More

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that the body needs to work properly. They boost the immune system, promote normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs.

Read More

Five Ways to Avoid Sports Injuries

Sports injuries often can be prevented. Find out how in this article for kids.

Read More

Broken Bones

What happens when you break a bone?

Read More

Strength Training

Is working out with weights safe for teens? The best way to build muscle tone and definition is to combine aerobic and flexibility exercises with the right kind of strength training.

Read More

Your Bones

Where would you be without your bones? Learn more about the skeletal system in this article for kids.

Read More

Broken Bones

Bones are tough stuff - but even tough stuff can break. Find out what happens when a bone fractures.

Read More

Bones, Muscles, and Joints

Our bones, muscles, and joints form our musculoskeletal system and enable us to do everyday physical activities.

Read More

3 Ways to Build Strong Bones

We build almost all our bone density when we're kids and teens. Kids with strong bones have a better chance of avoiding bone weakness later in life. Here's how parents can help.

Read More

How Long Does it Take for a Broken Bone to Heal?

How long does a broken bone take to heal? Find out!

Read More

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.