With the beginning of the new school year also comes the arrival of fall sports. And what says "fall" more than football? But it doesn't matter whether you are putting on the helmet on for the first time, or if playing on national television for thousands of fans – all football players are susceptible to injury. One of the most common of which, is an AC sprain.
What is an AC separation?
One of the most common injuries in football is acromioclavicular separation, more commonly known as an AC sprain or “shoulder separation.” Due to the high-intensity and high-impact of the sport, shoulder separations are quite common in football and make up around 10 percent of all football injuries.
How does it occur?
AC separations most often occur when a player is tackled. The combination of the force of the hit and the force of hitting the ground can cause trauma to the ligaments that hold the clavicle (collarbone) to the scapula (shoulder blade). This trauma to the ligaments affects the stability of the AC joint and can cause the shoulder joint to separate.
What are the different grades of an AC separation?
Like many injuries, an AC separation can range in severity.
- Grade I – A slight displacement of the joint. The AC ligament may be stretched or partially torn.
- Grade II – A partial dislocation of the joint. The AC ligament is completely torn.
- Grade III – A complete separation of the joint. The AC ligament, the coracoclavicular ligaments, and the capsule surrounding the joint are all torn.
- Grade IV-VI – A complete separation of the joint and severe damage to the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Surgery is often necessary to repair the shoulder.
What are the symptoms of AC separation?
- Shoulder pain
- Bruising and/or swelling of the shoulder
- Weakness in the arm or shoulder
- Limited movement of the shoulder
- A lump on the top of the shoulder (seen in more serious cases)
When should I seek medical attention?
If the pain is persistent, or you think that you may have an AC separation, a medical professional should be seen. It is difficult to differentiate a moderate shoulder separation from a bone fracture, an injury to the rotator cuff, a torn labrum, or a dislocated shoulder. It is important to see a doctor to receive an X-ray and an MRI to determine the extent of the shoulder injury.
Why should I get an MRI?
Getting an X-ray will determine whether any of the bones in the shoulder are damaged, but it will not reveal any ligament damage. An MRI of the shoulder will reveal any potentially stretched or torn ligaments. The MRI can also determine the grade of the AC separation. By determining the grade of the injury, the patient will be able to follow the necessary treatment plan to get on the fastest road to recovery. A shoulder MRI can be done at any one of the many Shields locations throughout greater New England. Find the location nearest to you.