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Football players are prone to injuries. If you or your children participate in the sport, you are aware that injuries might occur. You may have even witnessed a couple yourself: a player is tackled by an opponent and falls to the ground, a receiver takes a quick turn and lands incorrectly on his knee or a quarterback simply throws the football incorrectly and injures his arm.

A clavicle fracture, also known as a broken collarbone, is one injury football players might experience. However, you don’t need to play sports to risk sustaining a broken collarbone. It is a very common fracture that can occur in people of all ages.

The collarbone is between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade. It is part of your shoulder and connects the ribcage to the shoulder blade. The clavicle lies above important nerves and blood vessels that supply function to the arm; but these vital structures are rarely injured when the clavicle breaks.

According to Dr. Weber, OrthoIndy trauma surgeon, “A broken collarbone is usually caused by a direct blow to the shoulder which can happen during a fall on the shoulder, like being tackled on the football field, riding your bike or a car accident..”

Symptoms of a broken collarbone include: extreme pain in the shoulder area, difficulty moving your arm, sagging shoulder, inability to lift your arm, a grinding sensation if an attempt is made to raise your arm, a deformity or bump over the break, bruising, swelling or tenderness over the collarbone.

According to Dr. Weber, broken collarbones can heal without surgery if the broken ends of the bones have not shifted out of place and still line up correctly. A simple arm sling or wrap is usually used for comfort immediately after the break and usually the patient can slowly stop using the sling during the first two weeks. Pain medication and physical therapy will also play a part in the recovery process.

“You may need surgery for a broken collarbone if the ends of the bone are not lined up. Surgery will realign the bones and usually a plate and screws are used to hold them in place while they heal. If the bones require surgery due to how far the bones have shifted, then shoulder strength and function can improve once you have recovered,” said Dr. Weber.

Whether treatment for a broken collarbone involves surgery or not, it can take 6 to 12 weeks for a collarbone to heal. Most people return to regular activities within three to four months after their injury.