Cade McNown, Quarterback for the Chicago Bears
WHAT'S INVOLVED IN TREATING A SEPARATED SHOULDER
In a healthy shoulder, ligaments hold the collarbone and
shoulder blade together the way bungee cords hold luggage to the top of a
station wagon. Those connectors can tear, however, especially when the shoulder
takes a direct hit. Ligament damage allows the collarbone to come bulging off,
or separating, from the shoulder. This injury should not be confused with a
dislocated shoulder, where the top of the upper arm pops out of its socket.
In most instances, rest and wearing an arm sling is enough to
allow the injury to heal. Soon after the injury happens, ice is often used to
control swelling and ease pain. Patients then undergo exercises to regain the
motion in their shoulder. In severe cases, surgery is needed to repair the
damaged ligaments to put the joint back together again.
Tell-tale signs of shoulder separation are pain, tenderness,
and sometimes, a bulge at the top of the shoulder where the wayward collarbone
has ended up. Doctors sometimes will take X-rays of a patient holding a small
weight, so the separation can be a bit easier to see as the muscles are
On Oct. 24, the Bears announced that McNown didn't injure his
rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is formed by a group of tendons and muscles that
work to hold the shoulder together.
The upper-arm bone is shaped like a ball and is larger than the socket it
fits against. So the shoulder is built to be the most moveable large joint in
the body. And McNown certainly takes full advantage of it as a quarterback,
passing for 290 yards in the Bears' season opener against the Minnesota
Vikings. But the downside of all that mobility is a vulnerability to injury. It
takes a lot of muscles, ligaments, and tendons to hold the shoulder together,
and slamming them into the ground causes pain and loss of the overall
performance of the shoulder. While shoulder pads and using the correct
technique while falling can help, a sudden injury such as McNown's on a turf,
such as this would be very difficult to prevent.