3 Things Hockey Players Need To Know About Shoulder Separation

Health & Medical Blog

Shoulder separation, also called acromioclavicular joint separation, is a painful shoulder injury that can affect athletes who participate in contact sports, including hockey. Here are three things hockey players need to know about shoulder separation.

How does shoulder separation occur?

Your acromioclavicular joint connects the end of your collarbone to the top of your shoulder blade. It's held together by three ligaments. If these ligaments get stretched or torn, the joint can be dislocated.

There are many ways that you can suffer this injury while you're playing hockey. If you fall on the ice and land on either your shoulder or your outstretched hand, the ligaments could be torn or stretched by the force of your fall. Another possible way this injury can occur is getting checked by another player. The force of being checked into another player or into the boards can separate your shoulder.

What are the signs of shoulder separation?

If you suffer a shoulder separation injury, you'll feel pain in your shoulder. At first, your whole shoulder will be tender and swollen, but as the swelling resolves, you'll feel a more localized pain. This pain occurs in the region of the acromioclavicular joint itself, which is in the top part of your shoulder.

Certain activities will make your pain worse. If you continue with your weight training routine, exercises like the bench press will be painful. Even sleeping can be painful when you have shoulder separation. If you roll onto your injured shoulder in your sleep, the pain will wake you up.

Another sign of shoulder separation is that your distal clavicle—the portion of your collarbone that is closest to your injured shoulder—will be more prominent than it normally is.

How is shoulder separation treated?

Your treatment plan will vary based on how severely separated your shoulder is. In cases of mild separation—where the ligaments are stretched or slightly torn—conservative treatments can be used. You'll need to rest your shoulder which means that hockey is off-limits. Other activities that could aggravate your shoulder, like crossing your arms, also need to be avoided during this rest period. Ice and over-the-counter pain medications can help control your pain while you're resting. Once your pain is under control, you can start seeing a physical therapist to work on restoring strength and range-of-motion in your injured shoulder.

In cases of serious separation—where the ligaments are fully torn—you'll need to have surgery to repair the damage. During surgery, your torn ligaments will be sewn back together. If your bones were injured, they can be stabilized during this surgery. After your surgery, it may be several weeks or months before you can return to the ice.

If you think you've suffered a shoulder separation, see a sports medicine doctor. 


9 March 2016

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