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An acromioclavicular joint separation, or AC separation, is a common injury among athletes that play contact sports, such as football. The shoulder separation happens when the tip of the shoulder endures a direct and forceful blow. The result of a shoulder separation is the clavicle separating from the scapula, which can include injury to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There is great discomfort with an AC separation as well as instability and pain with pressure. An AC separation often does not require surgery, and separation often will heal on its own within 12 weeks. There are six categories of shoulder separation:

  • Grade I - slight displacement of the joint. The acromioclavicular ligament may be stretched or partially torn. This is the most common type of injury to the AC joint.
  • Grade II - partial dislocation of the joint in which there may be some displacement that may not be obvious during a physical examination. The acromiocIa\/icuIar ligament is completely torn, while the coracocIa\/icular ligaments remain intact.
  • Grade III - complete separation of the joint. The acromioc!a\/icuIar ligament, the coracoclavicular ligaments, and the capsule surrounding the joint are torn. Usually, the displacement is obvious on clinical exam. Without any ligament support, the shoulder falls under the weight of the arm and the cla\/icIe is pushed up, causing a bump on the shoulder.
  • Grades IV through VI are rare, typically an injury from a car accident, and surgery is required for these.
  • Athletic Orthopedics

    Athletic Orthopedics

    Athletic Orthopedics

    Athletic Orthopedics
    & Knee Center
    9180 Katy Freeway
    Suite 200
    Houston, TX 77055





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