Collarbone Injuries: Your Questions Answered

We have teamed up with esteemed Chartered Physiotherapist, Neil Aitken to give you high-quality information on the most common Rugby injuries and how to best recover from them. If there’s a particular injury you’d like us to cover with Neil’s help, get in touch with us on social media (Facebook | Twitter).

The collarbone is quite fragile and it is unusual to sustain any injury to it without trauma. With rugby being a high contact sport collarbone related injuries can be a common problem experienced by rugby players. In this article, we answer some of the most commonly asked questions rugby players have after sustaining a collarbone injury. If you are looking for more detailed information on collarbone injuries and how to recover from them, check out our Comprehensive Recovery Guide for Collarbone Injuries.

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What is the clavicle (collarbone)?

  • The collar bone is a thin bone that connects your sternum (chest bone) to the tip of your scapula (shoulder Clade).

How do you know if you have a broken clavicle?

  • You will feel a sharp pain local to the fracture. It will be very sore to feel the area of bone affected and as it is so close to the skin you may be able to feel the fracture in the bone.  It will be sore to move your arm more than 30 degrees out from your side.  You will not be able to lie on that side due to pain.

Why are clavicle injuries common?

  • The shoulder blade and arm are only connected to the rest of the skeleton via the collar bone attaching to the sternum (chest bone). A fall onto an outstretched hand or impact directly to the shoulder transfers a lot of force through to the collarbone.  In contact sports such as rugby this is therefore a common mechanism of injury.

What do you do for a broken collarbone?

  • Most collarbone injuries do not require surgery. Initial treatment would involve immobilisation in a sling for 2-4 weeks.  A graded rehabilitation program would then be undertaken, with progression guided by pain.  Exercises would initially focus on regaining full range of motion, moving onto strengthening for the rotator cuff, scapular muscles and then more global shoulder strengthening like pushing/pulling. When eventually returning to full contact training, consider using a shoulder support for added stability of the joint.

How long does it take to recover from a fractured collarbone?

  • Healing will take roughly 6 weeks and you can expect it to take another 6 weeks before you have regained full range of motion and a good level of strength. Contact sports are often undertaken at 12 weeks.  This may depend on the severity of your injury and your progress with rehabilitation.

Can you play rugby after a collarbone dislocation?

  • It would be very unusual not to be able to return to rugby after either an acromioclavicular or sternoclavicular joint disruption. You should be pain free with full range of motion and pre injury levels of strength before you consider returning to rugby.  This will typically be at roughly 12 weeks post injury but for more severe dislocations this may take 16-20 weeks and some may require surgery.

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About the author

Neil Aitken is a Chartered Physiotherapist with a private clinic in Edinburgh. He has previous experience as a senior physiotherapist in the NHS and provided physio for one of the top amateur rugby teams in Scotland. He is highly evidence-based having completed a Post Grad in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy gaining membership to the MACP, one of the most highly respected qualifications within physiotherapy.

Twitter: @aitkenphysio

neil aitken physiotherapist

Please note, this article is intended to serve as a guide for general information only. Injuries should be assessed by a qualified specialist such as a physiotherapist or doctor. When you sustain an injury, there are always complicating factors that may need to be assessed and addressed by a professional.

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