The humerus (arm bone), clavicle (collar bone) and scapula (shoulder blade) are the three bones of the shoulder. Together, when properly connected by soft tissue, ligaments and tendons, they form the joints that support and move the shoulder. Because these joints are the most mobile joints in the body, they are susceptible to injury, especially after a fall.

Common Situations Where Falls Occur

There’s a common misconception that elderly people are the only ones who fall. While elderly people do make up the patient population that sustains the most falls, they certainly aren’t the only ones that do so. The following are the most common situations where people (of all ages, genders, and fitness levels) fall:

  • Practicing/competing in athletics
  • Performing housework on a ladder
  • Slipping on a wet floor/surface
  • Climbing on a roof

Because the first protective move a person makes when falling is outstretching their arm to break the fall, the shoulder joint receives the majority of the impact force when landing and is easily injured.

Common Shoulder Injuries and Effective Treatments

A fall can result in a number of shoulder injuries, including:

shoulder fracture

Illustration 1- A fractured clavicle (x-ray view)

A clavicle fracture. The most common acute shoulder injury is a clavicle fracture. In most cases, conservative treatment consisting of immobilization, activity modification, and physical therapy effectively treats the fracture. When it doesn’t, surgical intervention in the form of an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) is necessary.

shoulder separation

Illustration 2- A separated shoulder (x-ray view)

A shoulder separation. The acromion of the scapula and the clavicle join to form the acromioclavicular joint. Because of its location on the top of the shoulder, it’s frequently landed on when someone falls. When the ligaments that hold the joint in place are damaged or torn, an injury known as a shoulder separation occurs.

Mild to moderate separations are effectively treated using the same conservative treatment options listed above. However, severe separations might require surgical intervention that’s aimed towards restoring the joint by repairing damaged ligaments.

clavicle fracture

Illustration 3- A dislocated shoulder (x-ray view)

A shoulder dislocation. The head of the humerus and glenoid of the scapula form the ball and socket glenohumeral joint. Forceful impact delivered to an outstretched arm can cause this joint to dislocate. Depending on the severity of the dislocation, the shoulder might need to be manipulated by an orthopedic specialist to be put back in place. In cases where no soft tissues are damaged after a dislocation, conservative treatment options are used. In cases where soft tissue is damaged, surgical intervention might be necessary.

What to Do If You Sustain a Shoulder Injury Due to a Fall

Shoulder injuries due to falls should be seen and treated by an Orthopedic Specialist. Regardless of the severity of the injury, treatment options to help ease symptoms and speed up recovery are available. If you fall and injure your shoulder, please don’t hesitate to contact us to arrange an appointment. We take injuries seriously and will get you in ASAP.

At Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates, our team consists of Fellowship-Trained and Board Certified Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Specialists.  Our team has extensive experience treating shoulder injuries.  We offer a full spectrum of treatment options that include conservative treatment and Physical Therapy.  We also offer the latest advancements in arthroscopic surgery and tendon repair.  Contact our offices in Plymouth, Duxbury or Sandwich, MA to schedule a consultation with one of our experts!