First Aid for a Broken Collar Bone

3 January 2017
 Categories: , Blog


A very common injury that occurs in many sports and also as a result of trips and falls is a fractured collar bone.

The collar bone is the thin bone that runs from the shoulder to the top of the sternum (breast bone). When someone falls, it's an automatic reaction to put the arm out to break the impact of the fall. This sends a shock wave up the arm to the collar bone, which takes the full force of the impact and often breaks as a result.

So, how do you provide first aid to someone who has a fractured collar bone? Read on for an overview.

Open or Closed Fracture

The fracture could be either open or closed.

An open fracture is one where the bone pierces the skin and becomes exposed. A closed fracture is one where the break is contained within the skin and underlying tissues. Open fractures present the complication of infection, and closed fractures can mask internal bleeding.

How to Spot a Fractured Collar Bone

There are a number of key things that all help to confirm that a bone has been fractured:

  • pain and swelling
  • a swelling or strange shape beneath the skin
  • a visible piece of bone piercing the skin
  • difficult moving
  • crepitus (a grating sound when the bone is moved)
  • shock

Any or all of the above signs indicate a fracture.

First Aid for Fractures

  1. Call an ambulance.  
  2. If the fracture is an open one, use a sterile dressing to cover the wound. Use sticky tape or a bandage to secure the dressing. Apply gentle pressure around the bone (not directly onto it) to control bleeding.  
  3. Encourage the casualty to hold their arm with the elbow bent to ease the strain on the collar bone. If possible, tuck the arm into the casualty's jacket or shirt to support it.  
  4.  Unless it is necessary to move the casualty to a place of safety, keep them still and if possible get them to sit down. Keep the casualty warm.  
  5.  Be aware that a traumatic accident resulting in a fracture often results in shock, which can be life threatening. Keep the casualty warm and reassure them that help is on its way.  
  6. Monitor the casualty for responsiveness. If they lose consciousness, place them in the recovery position and keep monitoring their breathing until professional help arrives.

The above basic guidelines would enable you to help someone who had sustained a fractured collar bone. If you have the opportunity to do so, it's a good idea to attend a first-aid training course, especially if you participate regularly in sports, such as horseback riding, mountain biking or climbing.