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What Are the Most Common Clavicle Injuries?

By Christian Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clavicle injuries are common among athletes, both competitive and recreational. Contact sports especially produce a higher rate of these injuries, most of which are fractures or dislocations. Due to the position of the clavicles, which run between each shoulder and the sternum, and the stresses put on them when someone falls on an outstretched hand, clavicle injuries are also common outside of athletic pursuits.

The most common of all clavicle injuries is a fracture, or break, of the bone in the middle third of the bone. This type of fracture can occur from a fall or from direct trauma, such as a hard blow. Football and rugby players incur this type of injury fairly frequently. Others who engage in active pursuits, such as biking, climbing, and horseback riding often suffer this type of injury, which is becoming more common due to falls incurred during winter sports activities. As many as 80% of all clavicle fractures are of this type.

Fractures of the clavicle in the lateral third, which is the end near the shoulder are the next most common type of clavicle injury. Breaks in the proximal third of the bone, the closest to the center of the body, are the next most common clavicle injury. These types of breaks, while much less common than a fracture to the middle third of the bone, are still more common than other, non-fracture clavicle injuries.

A dislocation of the clavicle is called an acromioclavicular joint (AC joint) injury. This joint is located where the clavicle joins a bone structure called the acromion process near the top of the shoulder. This type of injury, in which the clavicle becomes partially or completely separated from the acromion process, is also common in active or athletic people but can easily result from a fall under other circumstances. Damage to the ligaments and tendons that connect the clavicle to the acromion process, the cartilage which cushions the clavicle, or the acromion process itself can all result from this type of injury.

In rare cases, injuries to the clavicle can result in secondary injuries or other chronic problems. A major nerve runs behind the clavicle and can be damaged by a fracture. AC joint injuries, especially those that result in cartilage damage or damage to the acromion process, can result in osteoarthritis.

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