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  • Writer's pictureDr. Terrell Joseph

How Do I Know if I Fractured My Clavicle?

Fractured clavicles are a common skiing and snowboard injury

Skiing or snowboarding is an exciting way to make the most of the snowy season in Eagle and Summit counties. However, like any sport, it comes with a certain amount of risk.

One of the most common injuries that Dr. Joseph, a leading orthopaedic surgeon at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery, sees throughout the winter months is clavicle fractures, also known as broken collarbones.

How Do Clavicle Fractures Occur on the Slopes?

The clavicle is a long, slender bone that runs from your shoulder blade to the sternum. It plays an important role in supporting the weight of the upper body and allowing the arm to move freely. Due to its thin shape and location close to the skin, it's quite vulnerable to injury.

In skiers and snowboarders, clavicle fractures often occur when a person falls and tries to catch themselves with an outstretched arm, causing the collarbone to absorb the impact and break. They can also happen when a person falls and lands directly on their collarbone or collides with another object, such as a tree or skier.

While this injury is relatively common, it can be painful and requires medical attention.

What Are The Signs of a Fractured Clavicle?

X-ray of fractured clavicle

In most cases, a broken collarbone will be fairly apparent due to the location and severity of the pain. Here are some of the symptoms patients commonly experience:

  • Immediate and intense pain at the fracture site

  • A cracking or snapping sound at the time of injury

  • Visible deformity, such as a bump at the site of the break

  • Difficulty moving the arm on the affected side

  • Grinding noise when moving the shoulder

  • Swelling, tenderness, and bruising around the injured area

Will I Need Surgery for a Clavicle Fracture?

Man with sling after a fractured clavicle

Most clavicle fractures are non-displaced, meaning the bones are still aligned. When this is the case, the fracture can often be treated successfully with non-surgical methods, which may include:

  • Sling to immobilize the arm

  • Ice to reduce swelling and pain

  • Over-the-counter pain medication to help manage pain

  • Physical therapy to reduce stiffness and improve range of motion

If the bone is displaced or has more than one fracture, or if there are additional injuries, Dr. Joseph may recommend surgery to reposition and stabilize the bones to ensure they heal properly.

What Should I Do if I Think I Fractured My Clavicle?

Man with fractured clavicle getting it examined right away

If you suspect a clavicle fracture, it's important to see an orthopaedic physician right away so that you can begin appropriate treatment. If you experience shortness of breath, hand or arm numbness, or other injuries are present, seek immediate medical attention or call 911.

The best things you can do to treat the injury before your appointment with Dr. Joseph include:

  • Immobilizing the arm or keeping it close to your body

  • Applying ice to the injured area

  • Taking over-the-counter, non-steroidal pain medication

Dr. Joseph specializes in ski and snowboard injuries and will ensure an accurate diagnosis through a comprehensive examination. This often includes:

  • A conversation about how the injury occurred and the symptoms you are experiencing

  • A physical exam to check for deformity, tenderness, pain, or swelling

  • An X-ray to confirm the presence of a fracture, the location, and the severity

  • If a more detailed view is needed or if there are additional injuries, Dr. Joseph may order a CT scan or MRI

Broken Collarbone on the Slopes? Don't Wait! Contact Dr. Joseph Today

Don't delay seeking treatment if you experience a clavicle injury while skiing or snowboarding. Contact Dr. Joseph and his team at Vail-Summit Orthopaedics & Neurosurgery today.

With convenient locations in Vail, Frisco, and Edwards –plus same-day and urgent care appointments – expert orthopaedic care is only a phone call away.

Call (970) 476-7220 to make an appointment today. You can also schedule non-urgent consultations through Team Joseph's online appointment request form.

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