What Do You Do If You Have a Shoulder Injury

Last night I was watching the BCS Championship game.  I thought it was really exciting, did you?  I felt bad for University of Texas quarterback, Colt McCoy.  For those of you who missed it, the University of Alabama had, for some really strange reason, attempted a fake punt while on their own twenty yard line after three horrible plays that left them with a fourth and twenty three.  It went badly and Texas had the ball deep in Alabama territory and were driving.  Colt McCoy took the ball and attempted to run off left tackle. He hesitated and took a ferocious hit to his shoulder.  He initially looked like he was okay.  Then he was trying to shake his arm, to get it to work.  Next thing you know the arm is hanging limply at his side and he is out of the game.  Next we see him going to the locker room and them we see him going to the x-ray area of the Rose Bowl.

In a rapidly sped up time frame most shoulder injuries happen like this.  First you have a trauma.  You are in a car wreck with a drunk driver, or you are in a highway wreck with a semi tractor trailer or you are riding a motorcycle and someone turns in front of you or any kind of traffic accident or road accident.  You feel a twinge in your shoulder.  It is not exactly painful, but you know something is wrong.  It is very important, tell the investigating officer, or if the injury is from a construction accident tell your employer or whoever is investigating the accident, that you are having pain in your shoulder.  You may not need to go to the hospital in ambulance, but you should go to the hospital as soon as you can, as soon as you leave the accident scene.  It is inconvenient, but  your health is priority number one.  Don’t worry, these injuries are very treatable. 

At the hospital they should take x-rays.  X-rays are good at seeing the bone.  If there is a bony injury, like a break, immediate care will be given.  If there is no fracture, the emergency room people will likely give you pain medication and recommend that if you are still having pain in the next week, you go to your primary care physician for a checkup.  If you are still having pain in that first week, it may be general pain, but if it is a rotator cuff injury, it will only hurt with certain injuries.  Do what the ER people told you to do go see your doctor.  The doctor will likely recommend physical therapy, usually two to three weeks worth.  If the doctor recommends PT, do it, go to all the sessions.

If the PT does not work, the doctor will likely ask you to have a CT scan or and MRI.  These are tests that show the soft tissue surrounding the shoulder, called the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff is a combination of muscles, tendons and ligaments which hold the arm bone to the shoulder bones.  This miraculous mechanism allows the arm to rotate nearly 365 degrees, the most rotation of any joint in the body.  I have provided a drawing of the shoulder to help you understand these wonderful structures.

If you have a tear in one of these structures, your doctor will likely refer you to an orthopedic specialist.  An orthopedic specialist is a doctor with more training.  Orthopedists work on the bony and muscle structures of the body, and generally they specialize on certain parts of the body.  In your case your doctor will send you to a shoulder specialist.  The specialist will reexamine you, review your test results and make a treatment recommendation, possibly surgery.  Remember it is very important to follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment.

At Young and Young, we have represented thousands of Hoosiers with shoulder injuries.  We would be happy to sit with you and your family to advise you as to how the law can help you be compensated for the injuries you sustain when another’s negligence causes you injury.

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