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Your Rotator Cuff can be Injured in an Accident


When we think of injuries that people sustain in car accidents our thoughts often go to back injuries or neck injuries. We don’t give much thought to shoulders, especially in car accidents which wouldn’t seem to affect shoulders. But shoulders—and specifically, our rotator cuff-can be especially susceptible to injury in a typical car accident.

Why So Vulnerable to Injury?

What makes the shoulder so vulnerable in a car accident, is that often, the shoulder isn’t directly impacted in the accident. Shoulders are more often injured when a driver grips a steering wheel and tenses their arm, preparing to brace for an impact in a car accident,

That stiffened arm has the effect of making the shoulder absorb all of the impact in the crash—the energy from impact travels up the arm, and the inertia from the impact can move the body forward, while the arms stay braced in place, making the shoulder joint the weak point.

Like a crash, a fall has the same effect—instinctively, many of us will put out our arms to brace a fall. That outstretched arm pushes all the energy of the fall into the shoulder.

The shoulder is also particularly susceptible to injury just because of its anatomy. Unlike many other joints in the body, the shoulder moves in a number of different directions. You’ve probably seen on a model skeleton that the arm fits into the shoulder with a “ball and socket” joint.

That joint has to be attached and stabilized, and the muscles and tendons of the shoulder do just that. All of the tendons that surround that ball and socket, are called the rotator cuff. But when the ball is separated from the socket, it can pull on, or tear, the tendons in the shoulder.

How Do You Know You’ve Injured Your Rotator Cuff?

The injury can be immediately severe, but it also may be smaller, which may not cause as much pain or disability, at least not immediately after the accident.

One telltale sign that you may have a rotator cuff injury is that the shoulder will hurt all the time—even when the shoulder is at rest and not being used. There is almost always pain when the shoulder is used, and certainly pain when the shoulder has to bear any kind of weight.

If you get an MRI, you will be able to see the damaged tendons—but most hospital emergency rooms don’t have or use MRIs, so the typical X-ray won’t be helpful in diagnosing a rotator cuff injury.

After the Injury

Treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Major tears, which cause severe disability and limit range of motion, may require surgery. Other tears may only need injections, therapy or other nonsurgical options.

Have you injured your shoulder in an accident? Contact the Tampa personal injury lawyers at Barbas, Nunez, Sanders, Butler & Hovsepian and schedule a consultation today.


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