Shoulder injuries are the third most common group of orthopedic injuries in football. AC Joint (or Acromioclavicular joint ) Sprains/Shoulder Separations are one of the most common types of shoulder injuries sustained in football. Although quarterbacks are usually "off-limits" in practice, they are particularly vulnerable in games when they can get slammed to the ground. Wide receivers are at risk when they go up for a pass and come down shoulder-first hitting the turf. Regardless of the position being played, if an athlete lands on their shoulder, the risk of injuring their AC joint is high, despite protective shoulder pads.
AC Joint sprains/separation are defined as a separation at the bump on top of the shoulder which marks the junction between the shoulder blade (acromion) and the collarbone (clavicle). The resulting force of the injury, sprains or tears the three ligaments holding the joint together. Separated shoulders are graded according to the severity of the injury and the position of the displaced bones. Proper-fitting shoulder pads may help avoid these injuries, which rarely require surgery. This condition is often confused with a more serious and very different shoulder injury, a shoulder dislocation. A shoulder dislocation when the ball-portion of the humerus (arm bone) is displaced or “pops-out” from its socket.
Treating these injuries depends on the degree of the injury. Most often, ice, rest and anti-inflammatory medication and rehabilitation is what is needed. Return to play depends upon degree of pain and return of strength to the shoulder.