A very common injury that occurs in many sports, and also as a result of trips and falls in elderly people, 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 their 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, what do you do if someone has broken their collar bone?
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)
• The person will likely be in shock
Any or all of the above signs indicate a fracture.
What To Do
Your first action should be to call an ambulance.
If you can see bone piercing the skin, 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. 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.
Unless it is necessary to move the casualty to a place of safety, keep them still and if possible get them to sit down. 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.
Monitor the casualty for responsiveness. If they lose consciousness, place them in the recovery position and keep monitoring their breathing until professional help arrives.
Learn First Aid for Any Emergency
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 horse riding, mountain biking or climbing, or if you work in an industry where falls could occur.