Why do clavicle bones break so easy?

5 Answers | Add Yours

besure77's profile pic

besure77 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

Clavicles are one of the most frequent bones to be broken. Say for example a person falls (and falls are common). It is a natural instinct for a person to extend their arm out in front of them for protection from the fall. When a person stretches their arm out and puts full force on their hand and arm, there is a massive amount of pressure also placed on the shoulder and clavicle. This is one of the reasons that they are broken so frequently. Most of the time when someone breaks their clavicle, it breaks in the middle. These type of fractures usually do not require surgery. Fractures that occur near the joint are more complicated and often require surgery to repair it.

crmhaske's profile pic

crmhaske | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted on

The clavicle is there to support the shoulder, and because of the connection between our upper limbs, and the clavicle it absorbs the majority of the impact in a fall that we break with an outstretched arm.  When most people fall their first instinct is to outstretch their hand to protect their head from hitting the ground.  In doing this the force is transmitted from the point of impact at the hand, up the arm, into the shoulder, and to the joint between the shoulder and the clavicle.  This is when the force ceases travelling and affects the body.  If the force is enough it will break the clavicle.  It isn't so much that it is so easy to break, but that it happens to be in a location that absorbs the impact of the most common way to break a fall - an outstretched arm.

Top Answer

badrlaw's profile pic

badrlaw | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

Clavicle bones break because they have evolved to.  Sounds strange, I know, but they serve as a disconnect for impact trauma which would otherwise travel all the way into the neck, potentially breaking it. 

When a person falls and catches themself on their arm, the force from the impact goes up the arm and into the shoulder.  If the clavicle bone were thicker, it would simply pass the shockwave along its length and into the neck.  Necks (obviously) do not respond well to trauma, so instead the clavicle breaks and the force is dispersed into the surrounding tissues.  Certainly a painful adaptation, but one which, like a lizard's ability to tear free from its tail if the tail is caught, was evolved to protect the more important parts of the body.

jerkman's profile pic

jerkman | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted on

The best way to understand this is to look at a skeleton. YOu can see how the head of the humerus anchors right into the clavicle. Press gently on the head of the humerus parallel to the floor and note the pressure the condial exerts in that direction, and the tendency for the clavicle to move, thus indicating it too is being pressed upon.

As these bones are in contact, impact is transmitted from one to the other, thus creating a potential for fracture.

jk006's profile pic

jk006 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 3) eNoter

Posted on

The best way to understand this is to look at a skeleton. YOu can see how the head of the humerus anchors right into the clavicle. Press gently on the head of the humerus parallel to the floor and note the pressure the condial exerts in that direction, and the tendency for the clavicle to move, thus indicating it too is being pressed upon. As these bones are in contact, impact is transmitted from one to the other, thus creating a potential for fracture.

We’ve answered 318,983 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question