6 Common Shoulder Problems Caused by Car Accidents

Sep 21, 2022

Shoulder Problems Caused by Car AccidentsCar accidents can place a significant amount of stress on the body, often resulting in injuries. It is important to be evaluated by a doctor as soon as possible if you have suffered an injury in a car accident. Injuries can vary from mild to severe, but in all cases, early treatment is better. It is possible your injuries may require surgery.

Shoulder pain can be one of the most difficult aspects of a shoulder injury as it has to potential to become chronic. If your shoulder injury is not immediately apparent, you may be tempted not to seek medical care. When left untreated, some injuries can cause permanent damage resulting in chronic pain and discomfort. This is why it is important to seek medical treatment quickly for the best outcomes.

If you have suffered a car accident injury, specifically to your shoulder, you will need an expert medical team to treat you from the initial injury all the way through recovery. At AICA Orthopedics College Park, our team has a comprehensive approach to your treatment. We have, on staff, orthopedists, neurologists, physical therapists, and chiropractors. Our tea has the experience you need to get back to living a pain-free life.

Anatomy of the Shoulder

The shoulder is one of the most important joints in your body. Your shoulder attaches your arm to the trunk of the body via tendons, ligaments, and muscles. The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint, allowing it to be the most flexible joint in the body.

Three main bones make up the shoulder:

  • The collarbone, the clavicle
  • The shoulder blade, the scapula
  • The upper arm bone, the humerus

Over a dozen tendons, muscles and ligaments allow the shoulder to move in its unique way. They give it flexibility and a wide range of motion. Due to this, the shoulder is susceptible to many injuries. In a car accident, your shoulders are easily injured, especially when it is from the side. You can be thrown into the door or hit from the side.

Important Components of the Shoulder Anatomy

  • Rotator Cuff – one of the most commonly injured areas, the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that form a protective cuff surrounding the head of the humerus and keeping it in place. The muscles of the rotator cuff give the shoulder its rotating function.
  • Labrum – This section of cartilage forms a ring keeping the humerus in place at the shoulder joint. The labrum is also the point of connection for the biceps.
  • Capsule – The capsule is the ligament that surrounds the shoulder joint.

6 Common Shoulder Problems Caused by Car Accidents

Common Shoulder Problems Caused by Car AccidentsThe Shoulder joint is delicate and is extremely susceptible to damage, especially during car accidents. You can expect some pain and discomfort, but prolonged pain that does not get better needs to be addressed by a qualified physician like our Orthopedists at AICA Orthopedics College Park. The following are some of the most common shoulder injuries sustained in car accidents.

Our team treats car accident victims daily and is highly experienced and capable of handling your injuries from accident to recovery. Our goal is to help relieve some of the stress following an accident. AICA Orthopedics accepts most forms of health insurance and specializes in third-party liability (coverage that pays for medical care if you were not at fault) and can help you navigate the paperwork involved.

Clavicle Fracture

A fracture occurs when significant force is applied to the bone and causes a break. The clavicle is prone to fractures due to its thinness and location. When in a car, your seatbelt sits right across the clavicle, increasing the chances of fracture. Symptoms of a clavicle fracture include pain, inability to move the arm, swelling, and stiffness.

Because of their location, a fractured clavicle cannot be put in a plaster cast. The standard treatment is immobilization with a sling. If the fracture is severe enough, you may require surgery to place stabilizing hardware.

Torn Rotator Cuff

A torn rotator cuff is a common injury in a high-impact car accident. A torn rotator cuff can present with symptoms of pain, weakness, and even a cracking feeling when trying to move the shoulder. You may not be able to lift your arm at all if you’ve suffered a torn rotator cuff, as it is responsible for being able to lift and rotate your arm.

A torn rotator cuff can sometimes improve with time, but if you do not see improvements in 6-12 months, surgery could be necessary. AICA Orthopedics has excellent orthopedic surgeons who treat car wreck injuries every day. They have experience performing rotator cuff repairs. During this repair, the tendons will be reattached to the humerus. The surgeons will also debride, trim, and smooth the tear to promote healing.

Torn Labrum

There are two types of labral tears. A tear occurs when the labrum is torn or peeled off the glenoid. A labral tear can be caused by trauma, like a car accident, a dislocation, or repetitive motion.

  • SLAP tear – A superior labrum anterior to posterior tear involves the attachment site of the bicep tendon at the top of the shoulder.
  • Bankart tear – A Bankart tear is a labrum tear that allows the humeral head to shift forward towards the front of the body.

In order to repair the labrum, surgery is almost always necessary. A labral repair is best done arthroscopically due to the angle and small operating area. Using sutures and anchors, the labrum, or soft cartilage, is repaired very similarly to a rotator cuff repair.

Dislocation and Subluxation

A dislocation or subluxation of the shoulder occurs when the tendons or ligaments are damaged as a result of injury. When this happens, the humerus slips away from the socket created by the scapula and clavicle. A subluxation is when the humerus slips partially out of the joint. A dislocation is when the humerus slips completely out of the socket.


Tendinitis is the inflammation of the tendons and soft tissue in a joint. While this is not an acute injury, the trauma of a car accident can cause inflammation and makes it difficult to move your shoulder.


Whiplash is the most common injury you can suffer during a car accident. Whiplash is caused by the force of your car being stopped suddenly while your body is still moving. The impact forces your head forward and slams it back into the seat. This can pull and strain your neck muscles and even your back and shoulder muscles. The result is pain, stiffness, and discomfort.

You should always have a thorough exam by medical professionals following a car accident. If your car is damaged, you have probably sustained injuries even if it is not immediately apparent. AICA Orthopedic College Park treats car accident injuries daily, so call us today!

Signs and Symptoms

While each shoulder injury can have specific symptoms, there are general signs and symptoms of shoulder injuries to watch out for.

  • Pain immediately upon injury or after a period of time.
  • Weakness in the joint when trying to lift or move your arm.
  • Inability to move your arm
  • Swelling

How do we diagnose shoulder injuries?

treatment options are available at AICA OrthopedicsThe first step to diagnosing a shoulder injury is a physical examination. Our adance team at AICA Orthopedics College Park will complete a physical examination, including your shoulder. They will note any visible bruising, deformities, and swelling.


After performing a physical exam, your doctor will order medical imaging to get a better look at your shoulder and all the ligaments, tendons, and bones involved. At AICA Orthopedics College Park, we have 24/7 access to state-of-the-art imaging equipment to assist in the visualization and diagnosis of your injuries.

  • X-rays are used to identify fractures, breaks, or other damage suffered during an accident; x-rays are designed to capture the image of calcified structures, like bones and teeth.
  • MRIs (magnetic resonance imaging):To properly assess internal injuries, your doctor may order an MRI. MRIs are used to evaluate soft tissues, nerves, and blood vessels, as well as torn ligaments and spinal cord injuries.
  • Ultrasoundsare used to diagnose any bleeding in the joint as well as damage to soft tissues in the area.


Your doctor may recommend an arthroscopy to help with diagnostics. Arthroscopy is a minimally invasive procedure involving a couple of small incisions and a small camera. The camera is inserted through the incision into the joint space to get a clear picture of any damage to cartilage, ligaments, or even bone. The ability to see these structures in a minimally invasive procedure can help your team develop a stronger treatment plan.

What treatment options are available at AICA Orthopedics?

Nonsurgical treatment options for shoulder injuries

While you may think the only option to treat your injured shoulder is surgery, that is not always the case. Depending on the severity of the injury, several nonsurgical treatment options are available at AICA Orthopedics.

After a shoulder injury, it is ideal to rest, lightly stretch if possible, and apply ice to the injured area. These options help decrease swelling and alleviate pain. In addition, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) can be used to decrease pain and swelling in combination with ice and rest.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is often prescribed as the first line of treatment as well as part of your rehab if surgery is needed. The goal of physical therapy is to strengthen the area of your injury as well as relieve overall pain. Physical therapy can include stretching, joint manipulation, strength training, and more. Our expert physical therapists work hand in hand with your orthopedists and surgeons to create the best treatment plan for your specific injury.

Surgical treatment options for shoulder injuries

If, after imaging and exams and a discussion with your team, it is decided you will need surgical intervention, our comprehensive treatment teams are here to walk you through this process from beginning to end. The majority of surgical procedures done on the shoulder can be done arthroscopically. Arthroscopic surgery results in less tissue damage, less pain, and shorter recovery times due to the small number of incisions. Visualization is achieved through a small camera inserted into one incision.

Some of the more severe injuries to your shoulder may require an open procedure. This will require a larger incision in order to access the entire joint, tendons, muscles, and all. An open procedure will require a longer recovery time and long post-surgical rehabilitation.

How long will it take to recover from my shoulder injury?

Recovery tie is going to vary depending on the severity of your injury. A high-impact car accident is likely going to produce more severe injuries than a fender bender. Depending on the severity and type of injury, if you require minor surgery, you can potentially return to your daily normal in four to six weeks. For a more invasive procedure, the initial recovery time can last over 12 weeks.

Rehabilitation of a shoulder injury can be upwards of a year due to the complex nature of the shoulder joint. You must contact AICA Orthopedics today to begin the healing process. You should maintain all appointments and exercises set forth by your physical therapist and surgeons.

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At AICA Orthopedics College Park, our team has a comprehensive approach to recovery. Following diagnostics and initial treatment, our orthopedists will work closely with our physical therapists and chiropractors to develop the best treatment plan for your ideal recovery. Our chiropractors can help alleviate the pain and discomfort you may experience as a result of your car accident, as well as the expected aches and pains that come with recovery.

If you have been in a car accident, please call our office to schedule an appointment with a trusted orthopedic specialist. If you have sustained any shoulder injuries, fractures, whiplash, or other accident-related injuries, it is important to find a respected multi-disciplinary team like AICA Orthopedics to ensure top-level care as we evaluate your injuries and develop an ideal plan to approach your recovery. Contact AICA Orthopedics, where top-rated physicians are ready for you 24/7 to get you back to a pain-free life.


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