Common Shoulder Injuries from Car Accidents

X-ray of shoulder
A x-ray of a half shoulder

Shoulder pain is often caused by sprains, strains, and other musculoskeletal injuries that happen in car accidents. While some shoulder injuries heal on their own, others require ongoing physical therapy or even surgery. in some cases, shoulder injuries are permanent and cause continued disability and chronic pain. Accident victims should always seek immediate medical care for a diagnosis and treatment to prevent their injuires from worsening.

The Shoulder Is a Complex Structure

The shoulder is one of the most complex structures of the body. It is made up of several bones, joints, muscles, and tendons. Its three main bones are the humerus, which is the upper arm bone, clavicle, which is the collar bone, and the scapula, which is the shoulder blade. These bones are held together with four components:

  1. Joint capsule, which is a sac filled with fluid that keeps the shoulder joint lubricated
  2. Rotator cuff, which is a group of muscles and tendons that connects the humerus to the scapula to keep it within its socket
  3. Acromioclavicular joint where the scapula and clavicle meet
  4. Glenohumeral joint where the ball of the humerus and shoulder socket meet

Common shoulder injuries include:

Shoulder Fractures

Sudden impact or blunt trauma like that which occurs in a car accident can fracture one or more bones in the shoulder. As with most fractures, victims experience pain with movement, bruising or a bump over the location of the break, and tenderness and swelling. If not treated, the bones may begin to heal improperly. Osteoarthritis may eventually set in because of the fracture.

Labral Tears in the Shoulder

Tears in fibrous tissue, like in the tendons and ligaments that keep the ball of the humerus within the socket of the shoulder are called labral tears. This injury can cause a limited range of motion, pain with activities, shoulder weakness and instability, and grinding, locking, and popping sensations. If left untreated, the damage could continue to spread, and bone spurs or osteoarthritis could develop.

Rotator Cuff Tears

Tears in the muscles and tendons that form the shoulder’s rotator cuff can occur from the direct force. This can cause shoulder impingement which causes a painful pinching of soft tissues when the shoulder moves. Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear or shoulder impingement include a limited range of motion, shoulder weakness, and pain when moving or trying to lift with the arm.

Recovery from shoulder injuries may involve a long and expensive period of recovery including surgery, immobilization of the affected arm and shoulder, and physical therapy.