Learning About Traumatic Shoulder Injuries

Learning About Traumatic Shoulder Injuries

September 12, 2022

Shoulder pain is a common complaint in both daily life and sport, which can arise from an acute incident or slowly over time. Traumatic events, such as heavy impacts or awkward movements, often lead to bone or ligament injuries, such as an AC joint sprain or a broken clavicle. Non-traumatic shoulder pain typically arises due to a technical error, i.e. benching too wide or poor throwing mechanics, or a training error, i.e. lifting weights too heavy or a massive burst of overhead activity. 

In this blog, we’ll be discussing some common types of shoulder injuries.

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is a collection of 4 muscles that provide rotation strength and control to your shoulder joint. They are critical for raising your shoulder above your head and performing complex arm movements. Because the rotator cuff is so important for shoulder function, a rotator cuff tear can often be quite obvious, as arm strength can be significantly limited. Rotator cuff tears frequently occur in middle/late aged people and with high speed/force tasks – frequently a rapid pulling or throwing motion. People often report a sharp pulling sensation, pain, and an obvious loss of strength and movement – especially overhead.  Depending on the extent of this injury, a minor injury may progress well with physiotherapy treatment over several months, but moderate to large injuries typically require a surgical assessment.

Fractured Clavicle ‘Collar Bone’

Your clavicle, or collar bone, is closely associated with your AC joint and provides stability to your arm and shoulder, as it directly connects them to the rest of your skeleton. A fractured clavicle typically occurs with a direct impact, such as a tackle, or an awkward fall to the shoulder or extended arm. People often feel or hear a clunking/snapping sensation, have immediate pain and swelling, and may have an obvious change in their usual shoulder shape. This injury typically resolves with immobilisation in a sling for 6-8 weeks, but occasionally needs surgery to correct. 

Fractured collar bone

Acromio-Clavicular Joint (ACJ) Sprain

The acromioclavicular joint is a thick fibrous, but flexible, joint that connects your shoulder blade to your collar bone and is the only firm link your arm has to your body. It is important for shoulder stability and strength and AC joint injuries can be quite limiting for overhead or contact sport athletes. An AC joint typically occurs when an athlete strikes their shoulder point of the ground – often due to a tackle. People will report immediate pain, a significant loss of arm movement, as well as a tell-tale “step deformity”. Similar to a clavicle injury, most AC joint injuries progress well with physiotherapy and a period of immobilisation, however, some AC joint injuries remain unstable and may require surgery. 

Closing Thoughts

As with any injury, it can be challenging to find accurate and trustworthy information on the internet.

Despite the information we have supplied being helpful, in our experience it’s always worth your while to speak to a qualified physiotherapist, to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan that’s tailored specifically to you.

If you would like to speak to one of our team then call us on 01324 227 370 or you can book yourself in for a physiotherapy appointment with us here 

Written by Jesse Coad, Senior Physiotherapist 🇦🇺