Due to the orientation of the seatbelt, and the deployment of the airbag, some people can suffer injuries to the shoulder or upper arm during a car accident. The shoulder joint is dynamic and highly mobile. With this dynamism and mobility, there is some instability and increased risk of injury with the shoulder joint. With this feature of the joint, along with the car accident, there can be many different types of injuries. There are some common symptoms from injuries that you would want to pay attention to.
The pain will mostly be in the front of the shoulder and will be exacerbated when the person moves his/her shoulder or sleeps on it. Usually, the pain is described as sharp, dull, or throbbing and this is mostly due to swelling, but can be due to damaged and torn tissues. It is vital that you address this with an injury accident doctor, like an orthopedic surgeon, physiatrist, or a pain management doctor as soon as you can. Often, pain is the first sign of an injury, and it is important that you do not let that injury get worse.
Due to the restraint force from the seatbelt and the airbag deployment, the shoulder can be injured. Your body will be moving at a high rate of speed; if you hit something or are hit by another car, it ca jostle you around and cause the seat belt to compress your upper body, causing an injury. Usually, after an accident, you will notice some bruising and discoloration in the shoulder. This is due to the swelling that results from the damage to tissues inside of the shoulder.
Due to the damage to some tissues and the resultant bruising, you may have a failure to raise your arm. This could be a result of tears, bruising, fractures, or other injuries to the shoulder complex.
After an injury, the body will respond to this injury by swelling the area and allow healing and repair of the tissues utilizing the body’s immune and repair systems.
Depending on the severity of the accident, many different types of common injuries are a result of the impact from the car accident, seat belt restraints, and the deployment of the airbag. The force of the car after an accident will propel the body forwards. However, the seat belt will cause the body to move forward and the shoulder to be restrained by the seatbelt. Additionally, the airbag will cause forceful impact against the front of the shoulder. This motion, along with the airbag deployment, will cause a combined impact that can tear ligaments, break bones, or even dislocate the shoulder. The following are common shoulder injuries after a car accident
Labrum tear is a result of the tearing dislocation of strain on the shoulder. The strain can cause fraying or complete tears of any different structures in the shoulder. These structures can include the ligaments of the labrum, acromioclavicular joint, and other tissues of the shoulder. Additionally, the musculotendinous junctions of the shoulder, including the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapular, and trapezius muscle. When they are subjected to extreme force and compromising positions, these muscles and tendons can be torn and cause significant disability. Usually, these will have to be repaired surgically, by an orthopedist and you will have to undergo extensive car accident physical therapy to restore the function of the shoulder and to improve strength, reduce pain, and alleviate scar tissue. It can sometimes take six months to one year for the injury to be fully healed and for you to get back to your prior level of health.
If there is a forceful displacement of the shoulder and there are tears that are present in the shoulder complex, the head of the shoulder joint (the humerus) will dislocate out of its joint. Often, this joint will have to be relocated to the joint by a physician or healthcare professional, and there will have to be a surgical repair to surrounding support tissues of the ligaments and tendons. After this surgery, you might require extensive Physical Therapy to strengthen the tissues and to improve range of motion. If you are someone who works with your hands, this can be a debilitating injury that lasts for months or even years.
If the dislocation is forceful enough and the impact is great, there may be a fracture that results from the accident. Most of the time, this injury will heal on its own, however, if the bone is not approximated, you may require surgical intervention for screw, plate or nail placement to allow the bones to heal. Again, due to the immobilization from the surgery, you may need Physical Therapy to improve strength, reduce swelling, improve mobility, and mobilize scar tissue.
If the force of impact of a vehicle collision is not great enough, you may just stress the tissues of the shoulder, but not tear the tissue. However, the strains and impact on the tissue can still cause a loss of mobility and reduced shoulder range of motion and control. Most of these injuries will heal with time; however, you may require physical therapy to improve strength, reduce swelling, and control the pain. These injuries can be debilitating because these tissues are poorly vascularized and have limited healing capabilities.
The shoulder joint is a highly mobile and dextrous joint. Due to the orientation of the seat belt, the force of the airbag, and impacts in the car can cause significant injury to shoulder. Additionally, shoulder injuries due to a workers’ compensation or auto accident injuries will usually have to be addressed by either physical therapy or orthopedic surgery. After a car accident, it is essential to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of a serious shoulder injury and have it addressed by an experienced injury doctor as soon as possible.