What is a separated shoulder?

Separated shoulder, also known as AC joint separation occurs from a direct fall on or blow to the shoulder. This injury accounts for 9%-12% of shoulder injuries. Continue reading to learn more about recognizing and treating AC joint separation.

Understanding the anatomy

Three bones form the shoulder joint: the humerus (upper arm bone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle (collarbone).  The AC joint, short for acromioclavicular joint, is where the clavicle meets the highest portion of the scapula, the acromion, and is held together by the acromioclavicular (AC) ligament and coracoclavicular (CC) ligament.

Who gets AC joint separation?

This most often occurs in men in their 20’s who participate in contact sports like football, hockey, and wrestling.  However, it can occur in anyone with a traumatic injury to the shoulder.


“Shoulder Separation (AC Joint Separation)”

This is a surprisingly common refrain from parents of young female athletes, particularly soccer and basketball players. Are these girls really more likely than boys to tear their ACL? It turns out the answer is yes. The two obvious follow-up questions are: 1) Why?  2) Is there anything we can do about it?

The ACL or anterior cruciate ligament is a band of tissue that connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone). When the ACL is torn, it is unable to heal on its own, leaving the knee unstable. If left untreated, many athletes will have knee problems right away. Many others will develop problems over time.
“OH NO! MY DAUGHTER TORE HER ACL!”