The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is at the top of the shoulder blade and allows the arm to rise above the head. Three major ligaments stabilize the AC joint: the conoid ligament, trapezoid ligament, and acromioclavicular ligament. AC joint injury often occurs when athletes tear these ligaments by falling on the outstretched hand or landing on the tip of their shoulder. This can cause a sprain or AC joint dislocation referred to as shoulder separation. In contact sports, such as football, ice hockey, and rugby, it is common for athletes to experience shoulder separation.
AC Joint injuries are graded from Level One to Level Six depending on the severity of ligament damage. For lower grade shoulder separation, Dr. Shani will discuss non-surgical physical therapy options to strengthen the AC joint ligaments. Surgery is usually reserved for more extensive AC joint injuries.
For Level Four and higher injuries, Dr. Shani’s expert surgical attention is required. In AC joint surgery, Dr. Shani reconstructs damaged portions of AC joint ligaments and secures the healthy ligaments to their original positions on the bone with pins, plates, screws, or sutures. The procedure tightens the previously torn ligaments and returns strength and mobility to the AC joint. This is an outpatient arthroscopic procedure, meaning the surgery is performed with thru small minimally invasive incisions
Rehabilitation from AC joint surgery takes about five months. Patients work with Dr. Shani and a physical therapist on individualized rehabilitation programs to return full strength and mobility to the AC joint. The arm is kept in a sling and the shoulder should not be rotated for at least 5 weeks. Physical therapy will progress to weight training within three months. Most patients can return to contact sports after five months of physical therapy and consultations with Dr. Shani.