A shoulder fracture is another word for a broken shoulder. The shoulder is a complex joint that connects the arm to the body. It has many different parts, including the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade bone) and the clavicle (collarbone). The upper end of the humerus has a ball-like shape that connects with the socket of the scapula, called the glenoid, creating the “ball and socket”.
Here are three different types of shoulder fractures:
- Clavicle Fracture: A broken collarbone is the most common type shoulder fracture. It usually results from a fall.
- Proximal Humerus Fracture: This is a fracture of the upper part of the arm. Sometimes, proximal humerus fractures just involve cracks in the bone rather than the bone moving far out of its position. This type of broken bone is more common in people 65 years of age or older.
- Scapula Fractures: A fracture of the scapula bone is rare. It usually results from a traumatic event such as a car accident or a long fall.
Generally, the type of shoulder fracture depends on the age of the person. Children are more likely to break their collarbone, while seniors are more likely to fracture their humerus.
If you’ve injured your shoulder, see an orthopaedic surgeon or a hand specialist as soon as possible, as many hand surgeons can treat the fingertip to the shoulder. An x-ray or CT scan is the only way to confirm that you’ve broken a bone, and the longer you delay treatment, the higher your risk of permanent damage.
Your surgeon may treat your fracture with or without surgery depending on your symptoms, age and location of the fracture. You may simply be put in a sling for three to eight weeks. If surgery is needed, you will need to take time to recover. Your surgeon will give you more information on when you can begin moving your shoulder, playing sports and/or playing contact sports again. You may also need physical therapy post-surgery to avoid permanent shoulder stiffness.