Motorcycle crash shoulder injuries are fairly common. In fact, injuries to the shoulder joint and upper arm represent a significant portion of the injuries that ER doctors and surgeons see after collisions involving automobiles. These types of injuries are usually caused by our natural knee-jerk reaction to try to catch ourselves as we fall. Unfortunately, when you're traveling at a high rate of speed, the amount of force that's delivered to your arm upon impact is too much for the joint to handle.
A significant amount of those shoulder injuries are serious. Because the joint is so complex mechanically, any motorcycle accident shoulder injury can cause serious problems.
Below you'll find a list of common motorcycle crash shoulder injuries, their symptoms, treatments, and more. Additionally, you'll also find some great advice for getting the compensation you deserve after a motorcycle accident and resources you can use to help expedite your recovery process.
The shoulder is a fairly easy joint to dislocate. Because it is a "ball and socket" joint, the only things actually holding the arm and shoulder together are muscles, tendons, and ligaments—all of which stretch.
When a tremendous amount of force is placed on this joint (such as during a fall immediately after a motorcycle crash) or when the joint is bent the wrong way, those soft tissues stretch or tear and that "ball" can easily pop out of the "socket."
Dislocation often results in pain, swelling, and the inability to move your arm.
Thankfully, as painful as dislocations are, they're also often very easy to repair. Usually all that's required is to pop the joint back into place, immobilize the arm for a few days, and use ice and pain relievers to help with the swelling.
More serious dislocations may require surgery but the long-term prognosis for dislocated shoulder injuries caused by motorcycle crashes is usually good.
When you are forced to brake suddenly, cut off by an oblivious motorist or hit a car door that flies open, you will likely go flying over the handlebars. This typically results in serious hand, wrist and arm injuries. But it also is a common cause of a broken collarbone (or broken clavicle.) This is one of the most common injuries we see in motorcycle accidents.
The clavicle is more commonly known as the collarbone. It extends from the top of your chest to the top of your shoulder and is comparatively fragile. Clavicle fractures result in pain (though it's not often debilitating), swelling, and limited range of motion. Some patients will also see a bump under the skin if the broken ends of the bone are misaligned.
When you suffer a broken collarbone, there are typically two effective treatment options – surgical and non-surgical. If you are one of the lucky ones has a broken collarbone that does NOT need to be surgically repaired, you will have to wear your arm in a sling for several weeks and remain immobile.
If you’re broken collarbone, on the other hand, does require surgery for it to heal in place, it’s a different story. You will be placed under general anesthesia and undergo surgery. Often during this procedure, a plate and some screws will be implanted to hold your collarbone together in place. Some people have to endure yet another surgery to have the hardware removed, because it can cause too much pain and restriction during some activities. However, many people can live forever with the hardware remaining. Obviously, this is something you would need to discuss at length with your orthopedic surgeon to ensure you made the right medical decisions.
With either the surgical and non-surgical treatment options, you will have to participate in a strict physical therapy and rehabilitation program to regain your strength and mobility. If you try to “cheat” your recovery, you may sadly suffer lifelong pain and discomfort. We always encourage our motorcycle accident clients to vigorously work to optimize their physical recovery.
The two most common types of fractures associated with motorcycle crash shoulder injuries are clavicle (collarbone) fractures described above and proximal humerus fractures.
The humerus is the large bone that makes up the upper portion of your arm. At one end there is a "ball" that fits into the "socket" at your shoulder. This type of joint allows us a tremendous range of motion but creates a joint that's prone to injury.
Because most bikers tend to land on their hands and arms when ejected during a motorcycle crash, this type of arm and shoulder injury is common. Proximal humerus fractures often result in severe swelling, severe pain, and severely decreased range of motion. When you've suffered this type of fracture, you definitely know there is something wrong.
Treatment for these types of injuries may be as simple as immobilizing the joint for a period of time but may require extensive rebuilding of the joint through multiple surgical procedures. Sometimes (in rare cases) it's necessary to replace the entire "ball" at the end of the bone with an artificial component.
Your rotator cuff is actually comprised of four separate muscles that wrap over the head of your shoulder and provide the normal range of motion that we are all accustomed to. When any one of those muscles is torn (due to blunt force trauma such as that caused by a motorcycle crash) that normal range of motion becomes impossible to achieve.
Symptoms of rotator cuff tears include:
Any of these symptoms may lead your doctor to order an X-Ray or MRI in order to get a better look at any potential injury.
Many times rotator cuff injuries go untreated for weeks, months, or even years. While it may be easy enough to adapt your daily life to a decreased range of motion, you may do permanent, irreversible damage to your shoulder joint if you don't seek medical attention right away. Indeed, putting off treatment (because of the cost, fear, or any other reason) is one sure way to prolong the recovery process and increase the total cost associated with your injuries.
Treatment for rotator cuff injuries often requires surgery. However, such procedures are fairly common and while they may be involved, often result in a significantly improved quality of life.
It's fairly common to suffer some type of nerve damage when the shoulder is injured in a motorcycle crash. Because the shoulder is such a large and complex joint, it's easy for bone fragments, swollen tissue, or other obstacles to impinge on delicate nerves. Symptoms of nerve damage include:
While most nerve damage is only temporary and will resolve itself once the swelling decreases, serious cases may require surgery in order to fix the problem. However, it's never advisable to "wait and see" if things will get better. Always see a doctor immediately and explain all of your symptoms. Waiting may increase the severity of your injury and could lead to permanent damage and the loss of sensation in your arm, hand, or fingertips.
There are several ways doctors can pinpoint exactly what's wrong inside your joint if you've suffered a shoulder injury in a motorcycle crash.
Simply looking at the joint and listening to your symptoms may be enough to diagnose simple injuries like strains or dislocations.
X-Rays are one of the least expensive imaging options available to doctors and ER technicians. This type of medical imaging can spot bone fractures but doesn't provide high-resolution scans. X-Rays can also often miss soft tissue injuries.
CT scans can spot soft tissue injuries that X-Rays can miss but are often significantly more expensive and may require that patients travel to off-site locations as some small and/or rural treatment centers don't have CT machines onsite.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging is the most detailed but most costly imaging option available and can pinpoint even tiny injuries. MRIs are often used to spot areas which may be suffering from decreased blood flow which can signal more serious problems and prolong the healing process.
Shoulder injuries aren't cheap. Take the initial ER visit, add in surgery, medication, physical therapy, and ongoing office visits and even a simple dislocation can cost you thousands of dollars. But, if your motorcycle crash shoulder injury was caused by another person's recklessness or negligence, the law may hold them financially responsible for your medical expenses.
However, getting every penny you deserve can be difficult without professional legal help. Having a dedicated motorcycle accident attorney on your side can help you:
While you don't have to hire a motorcycle accident lawyer to proceed with an insurance claim, doing so may result in a significantly larger settlement in a significantly shorter amount of time. More money faster puts you on the road to recovery sooner and gets your life back to normal with minimal interruptions.
Contact us today to see what our motorcycle accident attorneys can do for you.