Administering First Aid for a Broken Shoulder Blade

Broken Shoulder BladeBroken shoulder blades rarely occur in humans, as it is sturdy and situated in a protected location. Hence, when the shoulder blade breaks, there is usually an accompanying injury to the neighboring areas, including damage to the head, lungs, or spinal cord or broken ribs. Broken shoulder blades are generally caused by heavy force/direct trauma. The shoulder blade is also called the scapula. Thus, broken shoulder blades are also called scapular fracture. It is more common in men aged between 25-45 years of age.

Structures of the shoulder blade:

The shoulder blade is a bony structure located on the upper back. It connects the upper arm to the chest wall. It has a fairly complicated structure.

  • Forms the socket fragment of the shoulder joint joining the upper arm (humerus) to the socket (glenoid)
  • Acromion and coracoid processed
  • Bony bumps on the upper part of shoulder blade
  • Connects the shoulder blade to the collar bone
  • Surrounded by thick layers of muscle
  • Enables shoulder joint’s movement

Causes of a Broken Shoulder Blade

As previously mentioned, scapular fractures are typically caused by heavy force or direct trauma to the body. Some of the common causes include:

  • Motor vehicular accidents
  • Physical assault, which involves direct trauma from baseball bats or hammers
  • Accidental falls with direct trauma to the shoulder or falls onto an outstretched arm

Symptoms of a Broken Shoulder Blade

The following symptoms are associated with a scapular fracture. However, the patient must still be diligently examined for other injuries or complications due to the heavy force.

  • Pain, which may be severe  (worsens) with arm movement
  • Pain during respiration de the movement of chest wall
  • Swelling and bruising over the shoulder blade or on top of the shoulder
  • Holding arm of broken shoulder blade close to the body
  • Unable to lift arm involving the side of the broken shoulder blade
  • Side of broken shoulder blade may have a shoulder that appears deformed

First Aid for a Broken Shoulder Blade

Due to the possibility of many associated injuries, seek emergency medical assistance as soon as possible. These injuries are usually serious and may be potentially fatal. Administer first aid while waiting for emergency medical assistance.

  • If there is bleeding, apply direct pressure to the site of bleeding using a dry, sterile cloth.
  • If there is bleeding, place a clean, dry cloth on the wound and apply direct pressure until the bleeding stops.
  • Immobilize the arm immediately and avoid moving for any possible reason. Create a sling looped over the neck and bent elbow. Keep the affected arm close to the body.
  • To limit swelling, apply ice to the area for 20 minutes at a time. Wrap the ice in a towel.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and not meant to substitute for medical advice or formal training. To learn how to manage fractured legs and other broken bones in the body, enroll in First Aid Training.

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