A broken collarbone is a very common injury, but one that carries risks to your health. These breaks are common in car accidents, slip-and-falls, and many work-related accidents. Others are the result of sports injuries or medical malpractice during childbirth.
Whatever the cause of your broken collarbone, it is important to know the risks of a broken collarbone and how they may affect you. This injury can affect your physical health, emotional well-being, and even your finances.
What Is the Collarbone?
The collarbone, also called the clavicle, is a lengthy curved bone connecting your arm to your body. It runs along the top of your chest to the front of your shoulder and is connected to the sternum via ligaments that attach to the middle of the ribcage. The primary purpose of your collarbone is to help keep your shoulder blades in the correct position when you move.
The collarbone lies directly above many important blood vessels and nerves. These structures are sometimes harmed during a collarbone fracture.
How Common Are Collarbone Fractures?
Collarbone fractures are relatively common. They account for approximately five percent of all adult fractures. Most fractures occur if the shoulder is outstretched or you fall onto your shoulder. With enough pressure, the bone can crack or snap.
This can be incredibly painful and debilitating, requiring long-term treatment and costly medical intervention.
Common Causes of Broken Collarbones
Collarbone fractures are prevalent because many common accidents impact this critical bodily area. Common causes of collarbone fractures include:
- Bicycle and pedestrian accidents
- Birth injuries and medical negligence
- Car accidents
- Industrial accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Offshore accidents
- Slips and falls
- Train derailments
- Truck accidents
One of these, or countless other causes, could be why you broke your collarbone.
Physical Risks of a Collarbone Fracture
The physical risks of a collarbone fracture are substantial and negatively impact your life. These physical risks fall into two primary categories: symptoms and potential complications.
Symptoms of a Broken Collarbone
A broken collarbone may lead to symptoms such as:
- Acute pain in your collarbone and shoulder area
- Bruising and swelling
- Difficulty moving your arm or shoulder
- Tingling or numbness due to nerve damage
- A grinding sensation when moving your arm
- Deformities such as bulging or tenting over the fracture
- Pale or cold arm from damaged blood vessels
- Breathing problems
Potential Complications from a Broken Collarbone
Broken collarbones may lead to rare complications that can be incredibly serious. These might include:
- Nerve injuries
- Internal bleeding or damaged organs from broken bone pieces
- Nonunion of fractured bone fragments
- Lung injuries
While less common, these serious complications can severely affect your health and well-being.
Emotional Risks of Collarbone Injuries
A severe accident can cause much more than physical injuries. While physical harm can be devastating, so too can the emotional trauma of an accident. Your collarbone injury can cause great pain and suffering, which refers to both the physical pain you feel and the psychological impact it can have on you.
Emotional harm from a collarbone break and the accident that caused it may include:
- Anxiety or depression
- Emotional trauma
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Post-traumatic stress
- Vehophobia (fear of driving in a car)
These risks are even higher when your collarbone injury accompanies other significant injuries from your accident.
Financial Risks From a Broken Collarbone
In addition to your physical and mental health, a broken collarbone can also severely impact your financial well-being. Broken collarbone injuries require costly medical treatment and often require long-term rehabilitation to heal fully.
Medical costs from your broken clavicle often include:
- Costs of an ambulance ride
- Emergency room fees
- Costs of surgeries or other medical procedures
- Rehabilitation treatment costs
- Cost of assistive devices, splints, or other medical apparatuses
The medical costs associated with your collarbone fracture can further compound the physical and mental duress you feel following an accident. It’s therefore important to ensure, if you were not at fault in the accident that caused your injury, that you seek compensation for your injuries to cover your medical expenses.
A broken collarbone may make it impossible to work. This injury is quite painful and can be debilitating. You may be unable to move your arm, lift heavy objects, type, or do other things that are required at your job. While a broken collarbone will impact different jobs in different ways, it can lead to some amount of lost income in any profession.
The costs of being off work can pile up quickly. Workers’ compensation will not pay for your lost time if you were injured in an accident outside of work. This means you are without an income when medical bills continue to accrue. Therefore, if your injury was the result of an accident where you were not at fault, these substantial costs should be paid by the negligent party who caused your broken collarbone—not you.
What To Do After a Broken Collarbone
After an accident that breaks your collarbone, follow the steps below to protect against many of these risks:
- Seek Immediate Medical Attention: Call 911 for emergency services or immediately get to a hospital. This medical attention not only protects your health but helps to document what injuries you suffered.
- Engage in Follow-Up Care: Follow your doctor’s instructions and advice. Get the treatment you need and whatever the doctor recommends. Failure to follow your prescribed medical regimen could be used to show that you caused at least part of your own damages.
- Gather Critical Evidence: Gather as much evidence as possible after your accident. Get the contact information of any witnesses, get insurance information from the parties involved, and take pictures of any injuries or damages. Keep all medical records and invoices concerning your broken collarbone as well.
- Speak to a Personal Injury Attorney: Work with a personal injury lawyer right away if someone else broke your collarbone. You could be entitled to significant financial compensation for your injuries.
Understand the Risks of a Broken Collarbone
By knowing and understanding the risks associated with a broken collarbone, you can take appropriate steps to protect your health and your rights. Remember to focus on your health, follow up on all medical care, and speak to a personal injury lawyer to get the compensation you deserve.