Broken Collarbone (Clavicle Fracture)

A broken collarbone is a relatively common injury, especially in kids. A fall or a blow to your shoulder can fracture your collarbone (clavicle). Most collarbone fractures heal on their own with conservative treatment. But it’s important to have a healthcare provider assess your injury and track your recovery.


A broken collarbone is a fracture or break in your clavicle bone.
Your collarbone connects to your shoulder joint. Trauma to your shoulder is one way to fracture your collarbone.

What is a broken collarbone (clavicle fracture)?

A broken collarbone is a fracture in one of your clavicles: the two slender bones that start from the top of your sternum and extend out to each shoulder blade. Your clavicle and shoulder blade meet to form one of your two shoulder joints. Trauma to your shoulder is an easy way to break your collarbone.

Types of clavicle fractures

Your healthcare provider might use various terms to describe your fracture. They might describe it as:

  • Singular/comminuted. Your clavicle can crack in one place or in several places. If it’s broken in more than one place, it’s called a comminuted fracture.
  • Displaced /nondisplaced. Broken collarbone pieces may still line up correctly. But if they move out of their original positions, it’s called a displaced fracture.

Your provider may also use a specific classification system (like Neer’s) to label your fracture as a certain type. These types describe the location of the fracture and whether other tissues are involved. Classification systems like these help your provider assess your injury and decide how best to treat it.

How common are clavicle fractures?

A fractured collarbone is a relatively common injury, accounting for 5% to 10% of all bone fractures. It’s twice as common in children — accounting for 10% to 15% — and is the most common fracture in childhood overall. It’s also the most common fracture that babies get during birth, affecting 1% to 2%.


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Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of a broken collarbone?

Symptoms of a broken collarbone may include:

  • Bone pain. A broken clavicle can be very painful. You may feel the pain in your shoulder or closer to the middle of the bone, at the base of your neck, depending on where it’s broken.
  • Difficulties with movement. Your shoulder or arm might feel stiff, or you might feel more pain when you try to move it. You might feel or hear it grinding or crackling when it moves.
  • Swelling. Any bone fracture will cause inflammation and swelling in the soft tissues around it. Since your clavicle bone is so close to the skin, you’ll usually see swelling as well as feel it.
  • Visible misalignment. You might be able to see that something in your skeleton is out of place. Your shoulder might seem to slump unnaturally, or your collarbone might look asymmetrical.
  • Bruising. Displaced bone pieces may injure your soft tissues, causing tenderness and, sometimes, bruising. You might see darkened or discolored areas of skin along your collarbone.
  • Skin Tenting. With a displaced clavicle fracture, sometimes the displaced bone pieces will stick up under your skin like tentpoles, forming what looks like a tent or a bump over the fracture.

What are the common causes of clavicle fractures?

A fractured clavicle is usually the result of a traumatic injury. Common causes include:

  • Falls. Falling on your shoulder or outstretched arm is a common way to break your collarbone.
  • Collisions. Shoulder collisions are common sports injuries. Children may also collide during play.
  • Car accidents. An accident may cause you to hit the dashboard or may trigger an airbag injury.
  • Birth trauma. Babies whose shoulders get stuck in the birth canal can get clavicle fractures.


Diagnosis and Tests

How is a broken collarbone diagnosed?

If you think you’ve broken your clavicle, seek medical attention right away. A healthcare provider will:

  • Ask you to describe what happened.
  • Physically examine the area.
  • Take X-rays to confirm the fracture.

X-rays will show where your break is, what type it is and if any other bones are broken. If you have a more complex injury, or more than one, your provider might order a CT scan (computed tomography scan) to see it in more detail.

Management and Treatment

How is a broken collarbone treated?

Most clavicle fractures heal well with conservative treatment. Only a small percentage will need surgery.

Standard treatment for a broken collarbone includes:

  • Immobilization. While most collarbone fractures can heal on their own, it’s important to keep the bone pieces from moving around while they heal. Your healthcare provider will provide a sling or shoulder immobilizer to help hold the bone still. You’ll wear this for several weeks.
  • Pain relief. You might need prescription pain medications during the first week or two of recovery. After that, you can use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen. It can also help to apply ice to the fracture for about 20 minutes at a time. Observation. Your healthcare provider will want to continue to check on your fracture while it heals. They’ll take periodic X-rays to make sure it’s healing correctly. This is important because, occasionally, it fails to heal completely (disunion). In this case, they may need to intervene.
  • Physical therapy. Your healthcare provider will prescribe gentle exercises to practice as your bone begins to heal. This helps to keep your soft tissues from stiffening too much while immobilized. Once the bone has healed, you can work on rebuilding your muscle strength.


You might need surgery if you have a severely displaced clavicle fracture, where the bone pieces have shifted far out of place, or if you have injuries to other tissues, like a tendon, ligament, blood vessel or nerve.

Surgery for a broken collarbone means (1) putting the broken pieces back together and (2) holding them in place with pins or plates and screws. Surgeons call this (1) “open reduction” and (2) “internal fixation.”


What happens if a broken collarbone goes untreated?

Even though it’s unlikely you’ll need surgery for a broken clavicle, it’s important to have a qualified healthcare provider assess your injury. They’ll need to make sure your bone pieces are in a position where they can heal correctly, and that you don’t have other internal injuries that need treatment.

They’ll also advise you on how to care for yourself at home, which is important to your recovery. Not keeping your shoulder immobilized properly can interfere with your healing. Not practicing your exercises correctly can lead to a stiff, frozen shoulder. Without checkups, problems may go unnoticed.

Outlook / Prognosis

How long does it take to recover from a broken collarbone?

Clavicle fracture recovery times can vary, depending on how severe your fracture is and how old you are. Children, whose bones are still growing, heal faster than adults. On average, healing may take:

  • Eight to 12 weeks for adults.
  • Six to eight weeks for adolescents.
  • Three to six weeks for kids under 8.
  • About two weeks for an infant.

Your healthcare provider will let you know when it’s safe to return to your normal activities.

When can I go back to sports?

Most people can return to sports when their collarbones have fully healed and there’s no more pain with movement. For contact sports, you might need a little longer to rebuild your strength. Your healthcare provider will take X-rays and physically examine you once more before giving you the green light.

Will a broken collarbone cause any long-term complications?

Most clavicle fractures heal completely and without any complications. If your fracture fails to heal on its own, it may cause ongoing pain until a surgeon fixes it. If the bone pieces heal in the wrong position, you may have a lasting bone deformity that you can see. If your fracture occurred near your shoulder joint, in some cases, the bone pieces can disrupt the cartilage in the joint, leading to joint pain later on.

Bone calluses

Some people, especially children, develop a visible lump on their bone in the place where the fracture healed. This is called a bone callus, and it’s very similar to a callus on your skin. It’s harmless and often gets smaller over time. It may go away after about a year, but sometimes, a small lump remains.

Living With

What should I do and not do with a broken collarbone?

If you’re recovering from a broken clavicle, follow these guidelines.


  • Wear your sling or immobilizer all day and night, removing it only to bathe.
  • Use pain medications as needed, but only as directed.
  • Move your shoulder, arm and hand a little each day as instructed.
  • Go to all your follow-up appointments with your healthcare provider.


  • Mix pain medicines unless your provider instructs you to.
  • Take more than the recommended dose of medications.
  • Drive while you still need your sling or immobilizer.
  • Use your arm to lift, push or pull until your provider says it’s okay.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

Contact a healthcare provider right away if you develop any new or unusual symptoms, like:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Your collarbone might not seem especially vulnerable to injury, but its connection to your shoulder makes it so. Any significant force that impacts your shoulder can transfer to your collarbone. This makes collarbone fractures more common than you’d think, especially in kids. Most broken collarbones heal without issues. Follow your healthcare provider’s advice to make your recovery as smooth as possible.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 05/08/2024.

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