A shoulder fracture can result from a fall on the shoulder, a motor vehicle accident, contact sports, etc.
The shoulder is a complex joint connecting the arm to the body. The shoulder bones include the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade) and the clavicle (collarbone) (Figure 1). The upper end of the humerus has a ball-like shape that connects with the socket of the scapula, called the glenoid. Disruption of any of the parts of the shoulder can create difficulty with its function.
The type of shoulder fracture varies by age. Most fractures in children occur in the clavicle bone. In adults, the most common fracture is of the top part of the humerus (proximal humerus). Some types include:
Some fractures are diagnosed using x-rays. Sometimes, a CT scan is needed to see more detail.
Treatment for these fractures can vary. Some options include:
Once healed, there may be a bump over the shoulder fracture site which may decrease with time, but sometimes a bump will remain permanently. Shoulder movement can begin as soon as pain goes away; return to sports cannot occur until full shoulder strength returns. Return to contact sports would be considered only when the fracture is fully healed as shown on an x-ray.
Selection of treatment depends upon the patient’s activity level, the location of the fracture and the severity of the fracture.
Shoulder fractures may leave a patient with permanent shoulder stiffness, regardless of how well the bones were repaired or joint replacement performed. Recovery may require the use of physical therapy to assist in improving motion and strength. Consult your physician for the best option.
©2014 American Society for Surgery of the Hand
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