It is not uncommon to injure your shoulder in a car accident. Often, a shoulder injury is the result of a tear in the muscles or tendons of the shoulder (the “rotator cuff”). Rotator cuff injuries can be painful and debilitating. They can restrict your range of motion and make it difficult to complete daily tasks. To correct a rotator cuff tear, you will likely need one or more surgeries.
If you have injured your rotator cuff in a car accident caused by another driver, contact the car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace. We will help you recover for the physical and financial damages you incur as a result of your rotator cuff injury.
What Is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that surround and protect the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons help you move your arm and provide you with a wide range of motion in your shoulder.
Two common injuries of the rotator cuff are tendonitis and bursitis. These injuries result from overuse, which causes the tendons (tendonitis) or the bursa sacs (bursitis) to become inflamed (bursa sacs are fluid-filled cavities that rest between the tendons and the bones of the shoulder joint).
However, these tendons can also tear from overuse or from acute trauma, such as impact from a fall or car accident. When the tendons tear suddenly from a traumatic injury, you likely will experience intense and immediate pain. The tear limits your range of motion in your shoulder, making it difficult and painful to move your arm.
How Can You Tear a Rotator Cuff in a Car Accident?
A rotator cuff can tear as a result of any kind of significant trauma or injury to the shoulder. However, rotator cuff injuries are common in car accidents because your shoulders tighten at the moment of impact and the muscles and tendons in the shoulder absorb the strain of the impact on your body. This often happens in rear-end collisions, when you may see the car behind you in your rear-view mirror and anticipate the crash. When this happens, you brace yourself for the impact of the collision by tightening your shoulders. In this intensified state, your shoulder muscles and tendons sustain much of the impact on your body, often resulting in a tear.
What Are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?
If you experience a rotator cuff injury—whether it is from a gradual degenerative condition or a sudden traumatic injury—you likely will experience many of these common symptoms:
- Intense pain, usually in the front of the shoulder
- Certain activities for which you use your shoulder become painful and must be avoided
- Loss of full range of motion in your shoulder
- Pain or inability to raise your arm
- Pain while sleeping on your injured-shoulder side
- Shoulder weakness
If you experience some or all of these symptoms after a car accident, you should immediately seek a medical evaluation to determine if you have a tear of your rotator cuff.
How Is a Rotator Cuff Tear Diagnosed?
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination of your shoulder. A significant injury to your rotator cuff after a car crash will be apparent because of the symptoms you will most likely demonstrate. To determine if there is a tear, your doctor will conduct an imaging scan, such as a magnetic resonance image (MRI) or an ultrasound to examine the soft tissues and identify any damage to the tendons. A standard X-ray also may detect any bone spurs (sharp bone growths) that could be aggravating the tendons, causing inflammation and pain. These tests, along with a complete medical history, will be important in showing that your rotator cuff was healthy prior to the accident and was injured as a result of the crash. Therefore, it is critical that you have an evaluation as soon as possible after your accident.
How Is a Rotator Cuff Tear Treated?
Tears in the rotator cuff can range in size and severity. The treatment that is required may depend on:
- The size of the tear
- The location of the tear
- The severity (depth) of the tear
Small or mild tears may not require surgery but may be treated with rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication, and corticosteroid injections to reduce pain. However, larger tears—or small tears that do not improve with these treatment options—likely will require surgery.
Surgery may be conducted by performing an open incision to remove bone fragments, smooth bone spurs, and suture torn ligaments, or arthroscopic repair. With arthroscopic surgery, the doctor inserts a mini-camera lens into the shoulder joint to observe the damage and uses micro-surgical tools inserted through tiny holes in the skin to repair the damaged tendons. Arthroscopic surgery still requires intensive rehabilitation, which can be painful, but there are no major incisions.
If the pain and damage to the rotator cuff and shoulder joint persists, you may require subsequent surgery, transfer of alternate tendons, or even complete shoulder-joint replacement.
You Can Be Compensated for a Rotator Cuff Tear after a Car Accident
If you have suffered a shoulder injury in a car accident that was caused by another driver, you can be compensated for your injury. Your compensation will depend on the severity of your injury. It is important to obtain a medical evaluation of any shoulder pain you experience immediately after an accident. If your shoulder injury is a tear in your rotator cuff, you may require expensive surgery and a long and painful course of physical therapy and rehabilitation that can prevent you from working. You may be entitled to money damages for your injury, which may include:
- Any medical costs that you incur
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Possibly permanent disability that prevents you from participating in the lifestyle that you enjoyed prior to your injury
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Costs incurred for subsequent treatment or surgeries
Have You Been Injured in a Kansas City Car Accident?
If you've been hurt in a Kansas City car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.249.2101 to schedule your free consultation.