AC Joint sprain Shoulder injury is extraordinarily common for over-head athletes.  This includes the best La Jolla tennis players and the recreational Carlsbad yoga enthusiasts alike.

There are very few players in the NFL who are as explosive as Washington Redskins’ wide receiver Desean Jackson.  Fortunately for Desean Jackson, his most recent injury should not have any affect on his explosiveness. Unfortunately, it is very hard for a wide receiver to catch the ball when he has a “separated shoulder.” Desean Jackson’s injury occurred during the game against Jacksonville last week and the diagnosis of was a sprained AC joint. However, he was surprisingly, able to play and perform very well despite the injury. But let’s take a look at the injury that threatened his Week 3 availability.

The AC joint connects the shoulder blade (acromion) and collarbone (clavicle). Ligaments surround and act to stabilize the AC joint. These ligaments are typically damaged if you fall and land directly onto the shoulder. This is a very typical injury in sports and often happens when players dive to make a play and cannot flip onto their back for the landing. Like many sprains the severity of the injury can vary. Grade I sprains would involve tears of microscopic fibers of the AC ligaments. Grade II sprains are more severe but typically only have cause slight alignment issues. Grade III sprains are complete tears and often involve both the AC ligament and the CC ligament. A severe sprain would put the AC joint significantly out of position. Symptoms of an AC joint sprain include pain at the top of the shoulder, swelling, bruising, decreased range of motion, and deformity.

AC Joint Sprain Shoulder injury Treatment:

Mild AC joint sprains do not require surgery and generally can heal completely with time and use of ice packs and slings. Grade II sprains, the AC joint can heal without surgery as well, but if there is any deformity involved with the injury, there may be ongoing pain in the AC joint. This pain could be due to arthritis development, injury to cartilage between the bones, or abnormal bone-to-bone contact. Grade III injuries with severe deformity typically require orthopedic surgery for complete return to form. The surgeon can reconstruct the damaged ligaments surrounding the AC joint. After a period of immobility and rehabilitation most people are able to return to form without much trouble, although as discussed above, lingering pain may persist. Even in mild AC joint sprains, shoulder exercises should be utilized to regain flexibility, strength, and range of motion. Some of these exercises include shoulder blade squeezes, pendular exercises, wall crawls, and static rotator cuff extensions. As the AC joint becomes stronger, more intermediate and advanced exercises can be utilized.

Desean Jackson and the Washington Redskins got pretty lucky that Jackson’s injury was not more serious. His injury was likely somewhere in between a grade I and grade II sprain. Through limiting weekly activity and pain management, Jackson was able to tough it out this weekend against his former team, the Philadelphia Eagles. He managed to have a very good game and the Washington training staff will likely install a similar regimen for this upcoming week, although the Redskins have a short turnaround, playing on Thursday night.

If you are faced with a shoulder injury, have our nationally recognized sports medicine physicians at San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Clinic care for you.  Call for an appointment.

© 2023 Dr. Robert Afra – San Diego Orthopedic Surgery Shoulder – Knee – Elbow