AC Joint injuries are a common injury sustained in contact sports such as rugby league, union, and AFL. It occurs most commonly when there is trauma to the point of the shoulder, such as when making a tackle or when landing on the ground awkwardly. This trauma commonly can cause some separation between the two bones.
The AC Joint is the joint between your clavicle, and your shoulder blade. It is a strong joint, with minimal movement in it and is designed to help distribute force evenly around the area.
Signs and Symptoms:
Those who have sustained an AC Joint injury commonly present with the following symptoms
- A bump at the point of the shoulder
- Tenderness to touch
- Pain when pulling the arm across the body
- Pain when leaving the arm unsupported, or having the arm pulled down
There are normally three grades for AC Joint injuries
Grade 1: A small sprain of the AC Joint
Grade 2: Rupture of the AC Joint
Grade 3: Rupture of the AC Joint, and the surrounding ligaments that also support it.
Rehabilitation and Prevention
Immediately after the injury, it is important to ice and compress it to reduce the acute swelling. Taping the AC Joint to keep it together can also assist in reducing the pain. Depending on the severity of the injury, a period of immobilisation may be warranted.
However a gradual strength program should be implemented as soon as safely possible. Manual therapy should also be used to help restore the range of motion.
Long term, an AC Joint splint or guard can be used, to protect further pain to the site.