Last month, many watched Green Bay Packers star Charles Woodson sustain an injury that forced him onto the sidelines of the biggest football game of the year – Super Bowl XLV. During a fairly routine defensive play in the second quarter, Woodson, a cornerback for the Packers, dove onto the ground, landed on his right shoulder, and fractured his collarbone.
While we certainly do not have inside information on Woodson’s particular injury, OSS surgeons routinely provide treatment for collarbone fractures, one of the most commonly injured bones in the human body – and can provide the following perspective on the typical course of such injuries.
What is a Clavicle Fracture?
The clavicle, or collarbone, is the most commonly fractured bone in the body. The vast majority of clavicle fractures are completely fractured or broken, rather than partially fractured (when a bone does not completely break apart).
The clavicle bone connects the spine to the shoulder and arm – and when that connection breaks, the clavicle can appear to have sprung up, sometimes even poking out the skin. However, this appearance is due to the whole upper arm sinking down relative to the spine once the clavicle’s connection is broken.
What is the Treatment?
Most clavicle fractures are treated with a sling for comfort for a few weeks, followed by progressive use of the arm as the bone begins to knit together and symptoms subside. During those first few weeks, as the bone moves and the shoulder has no bony support, pain can be significant.
Surgery is usually reserved for severe fractures, including those that penetrate the skin. However, there is a recent trend to surgically treat significantly displaced fractures in active patients in an attempt to regain the fullest function. Specifics of the fracture as well as the surgical risks must be weighed, but there is evidence that certain fractures heal better with operative fixation.
Regardless of the specific course of treatment, clavicle fractures generally require X-rays for three months until full healing occurs.
What is the Prognosis?
In general, patients experience excellent results in healing from collarbone fractures. In Woodson’s case – without seeing his films, of course – we can assume he will certainly be given serious consideration for surgery if there is significant displacement to restore him to fullest function. Even if non-operative care is chosen, he will likely have full use and strength of his arm by next season’s training camp.
If you have further questions about clavicle injuries or have any orthopedic concerns, Orthopedic Specialists of Seattle physicians are available to answer your questions. Contact our offices at (206) 633-8100.