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4 Common Shoulder Injuries Caused by Car Accidents

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A shoulder injury from a car accident can cause extreme pain and affect your ability to perform your normal activities. In many cases, it will not get better on its own. It requires treatment from a personal injury doctor who can identify the cause of pain and suggest appropriate treatment options. Here are examples of some shoulder injuries you are most likely to see from a car accident.

1. Dislocation

Out of all the joints in the body, the shoulder has the greatest range of motion, able to move in many different directions. Unfortunately, this increased mobility makes the shoulder unstable compared to other joints. This makes dislocation more likely.

The shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint. The “ball” is the humeral head at the top of the upper arm bone. A dislocation occurs when something causes the humeral head to slip out of the “socket” at the end of the glenoid bone. Dislocation may be either complete or partial, but either way, it can cause extreme pain, as well as bruising, numbness, and swelling. It can also cause deformity, meaning that the shape of the shoulder does not appear normal.

An auto accident injury doctor in New York can treat a shoulder dislocation by performing a closed reduction. This involves manually forcing the humeral head back into its proper position.

You may have to have an X-ray first to rule out a fracture of the humerus. It is essential to see a doctor right away for a shoulder dislocation or swelling may interfere with treatment. Pain from a dislocation usually stops immediately following closed reduction. However, damage to soft tissues in the shoulder may make you more susceptible to repeat dislocations.

2. Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles that provide the shoulder’s exceptional range of motion, as well as the tendons that cover the humeral head and hold it in place. There is one tendon for each of the four muscles, and each tendon shares its name with its muscle:

  • Subscapularis
  • Supraspinatus
  • Infraspinatus
  • Teres minor

A car accident can cause an acute tear of one of the rotator cuff tendons, separating it from the humeral head. Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain with specific movements or when resting on the affected side, as well as a crackling sensation called crepitus with certain movements. While surgery is sometimes necessary to repair the tear, 80% of people improve with nonsurgical treatment.

3. Labral Tear

It is not only the rotator cuff that holds the shoulder joint together. The labrum is a ring of cartilage around the socket of the shoulder joint. It helps to maintain the humeral head in place by making the socket deeper. A tear of the labrum is most likely to occur at the top part from front to back.

4. Clavicle Fracture

The clavicle is the scientific word for the collarbone. Its function is to connect the arm to the rest of the body and protect several essential blood vessels and nerves. A direct blow to the shoulder can cause the clavicle to break, sometimes where it attaches to the shoulder or breastbone but usually in the middle of the shaft. Clavicle fractures can cause extreme pain and deformity of the collarbone and decreased function of the affected arm.

It may be necessary to repair the clavicle surgically using a technique called open reduction and internal fixation. This involves using hardware to repair the fracture and hold the bone fragments in place so they can heal. ORIF is usually only required if the fracture is displaced. Otherwise, it may be possible to treat the fracture by immobilizing the shoulder in a sling until the bone fragments heal.

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