Whether it’s commuting to work, enjoying a leisurely weekend ride, or participating in a competitive triathlon, a cycling fall can happen, sometimes leading to significant shoulder and upper extremity injuries. While cyclists are traveling as quickly as drivers and passengers of cars, they are mostly unprotected and highly susceptible to injury.
If you fell and hurt your shoulder while biking, you may be dealing with a severe injury, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. Here are some common types of shoulder blade injuries from falling off of a bicycle.
Shoulder dislocation occurs when the top of the arm bone loses contact with the socket of the shoulder blade, leaving the bone on your shoulder sticking out. A doctor or other medical professional will need to put your shoulder back into place if it’s been dislocated.
Here are some symptoms of a dislocated shoulder:
- Shoulder pain
- Arm angled slightly away from the body as if the bone on your shoulder is sticking out
- A sharp angular shape to the deltoid muscle (the muscle which caps the shoulder)
Clavicle fractures are the most common among the various shoulder injuries resulting from cycling falls. Traditionally, it was believed that most clavicle fractures would heal on their own without intervention and that patients would recover well. However, recent orthopedic studies have provided a more nuanced understanding of these injuries, revealing a less optimistic outlook. These studies have led to a shift toward more aggressive treatment approaches, including surgical management in some cases. It has been found that achieving an accurate alignment of the fractured bone fragments can expedite healing and reduce the risk of complications such as nonunion, shoulder weakness, and limited range of motion. Your doctor may recommend surgery for patients with severe fractures with a higher risk of experiencing problems with conservative treatment.
Acromioclavicular Joint Injury/Shoulder Separation
Another common shoulder injury from road bike crashes is acromioclavicular joint injury, also known as shoulder separation. Thankfully, most shoulder separations can be effectively treated with a sling and rest. However, in cases where the separation is more severe, and there is significant displacement, surgical reconstruction of the joint may offer better long-term outcomes. A novel arthroscopic-assisted technique has recently revolutionized the treatment approach for this injury, allowing for precise reduction and stabilization of the AC joint without the need for aggressive open surgery.
Rotator Cuff Tears
Hard falls on the shoulder can frequently lead to rotator cuff tears. Unlike clavicle fractures or shoulder separations, rotator cuff tears may not be immediately apparent as there is often no visible deformity around the shoulder. However, the resulting pain and disability can be equally profound.
Rotator cuff injuries typically involve tearing the rotator cuff tendon which is composed of four muscles: infraspinatus, subscapularis, supraspinatus, and teres minor. These muscles provide support to the upper arm bone and assist in arm elevation. The supraspinatus muscle is the most frequently torn muscle in bicycle accidents. When subjected to significant force, it can tear the rotator cuff tendon, leading to a disconnection between the shoulder blade and the upper arm bone (humerus).
Recognizing the symptoms of a torn rotator cuff is crucial for cyclists. The following signs may indicate an injury:
- Pain in the affected arm
- Restricted range of motion in the arm
- Inability to rotate the arm
- Inability to lift the arm
- Inability to utilize the arm
The management and treatment options for rotator cuff injuries in cyclists vary based on the severity of the damage. Pain management strategies may involve physical therapy exercises, steroid injections, arthroscopic repair surgery, or shoulder replacement.
Medical professionals can diagnose the specific type of shoulder injury by conducting a thorough examination of the affected arm, shoulder, and neck. Additional diagnostic tests such as X-rays or MRI scans may be ordered. In cases where surgical repair is necessary, such as acute tearing of the rotator cuff tendon, injured cyclists can opt for appropriate treatment options.
If you fell and hurt your shoulder while biking and now don’t know what to do, contact a trusted bicycle accident lawyer to help you get started on your road to physical and financial recovery.
Contact a San Francisco Bike Accident Lawyer You Can Trust
Have you been involved in a cycling fall in San Francisco? Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, can help you take the next steps to get proper care and compensation for your injury. Call our offices 24/7 at 877-380-8852 or visit our website to schedule your free consultation.