What Is a Separated Shoulder?

Dr. Michael Michlitsch, Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Specialist at Muir Orthopaedic Specialists, explains what a separated shoulder is.

Question: What is a separated shoulder?

Answer: A shoulder separation refers to the separation to the end of the clavicle, your collar bone, from the end of the acromion, which is the tip of your shoulder blade on top. A shoulder dislocation refers to a dislocation of the bone ball from the socket. A shoulder separation, called a acromioclavicular or AC separation, occurs because the ligaments holding the clavicle in place tear from the shoulder blade. The typical mechanism for this injury is commonly found in sports activities ranging from a bicyclist falling over the handlebars onto their shoulder, a quarterback or receiver being tacked onto their shoulder, or a wrestler being slammed to the mat on their shoulder. Fortunately, most of these injuries stretch, but do not tear the ligaments. Recovery from such an injury may require a month of more of rest before return to sports can occur.

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