Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Injuries
Acromioclavicular (AC) Joint Injuries most commonly occur in contact sports such as AFL, rugby and touch football.
The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is where the collarbone (clavicle) joins onto the tip of the shoulder blade. It is held together by 2 main ligaments.
Most commonly it is damaged by falling on an outstretched hand or arm or by falling directly onto the shoulder.
Depending on the severity of the injury the ligaments can either be stretched (Grade 1) or torn (Grade 2 & 3). In severe cases where the ligament is completely torn the collarbone will move away from the shoulder causing a noticeable lump on the shoulder known as a ‘step deformity’.
Signs and symptoms of an AC joint injury include pain with moving the arm across the body and above the head or performing lifting, pushing or pulling movements with the affected arm. There may also be local pain, tenderness and swelling over the AC joint.
Returning to sport is possible once there is no local tenderness over the AC joint and there is full painfree range of movement in the shoulder. This may take up to 8 weeks in severe cases.
Physiotherapy can help to reduce the time of returning to sport by helping with pain management and shoulder strengthening exercises for the shoulder to function optimally. It is important to get the injury assessed properly by a physiotherapist to determine the extent of damage and to begin treatment as soon as possible.