Cade McNown, Quarterback for the Chicago Bears

From the WebMD Archives

NAME: Cade McNown
Chicago Bears
INJURY: Separated shoulder (left side)


Many pro athletes have all sorts of banged up shoulders lately. Here is a rundown on who is suffering specifically from a separated shoulder.


Right wing Jody Hull of the Philadelphia Flyers


Quarterback Rob Johnson of the Buffalo Bills
Running back Reuben Droughns of the Detroit Lions
Running back Marshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams


The 23-year-old McNown is 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 208 pounds. This is his second season with Chicago. He was drafted fifth overall, the highest passer the Bears had drafted since Jim McMahon, 17 years ago. McNown spent his first three years of secondary school at Benito High in Holliser, Calif. He went all-conference in his sophomore and junior years, then played his senior year at West Linn High School in Oregon. There, he also was a track star, setting the school's pole vault record at 15 feet 2 inches. He headed to UCLA for college ball, where he was selected for all-state and all-American as a quarterback and as a safety.


On Oct. 22, four plays into the second quarter, McNown found himself trying to evade the Eagles' defense at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium. But before he could slip out of bounds, Eagle linebacker Mike Caldwell brought him down hard, slamming him to the fake turf, which is notoriously unforgiving. (The Associated Press reports that the surface in Philadelphia has long been regarded as the worst in the NFL. Some in Chicago have likened it to asphalt.) McNown landed on his throwing shoulder, with the tackler's weight on him.



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 stretched.

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.



It can take two-three months for a separated shoulder to heal. But doctors have speculated that McNown should recover in four-six weeks. He already is making appearances wearing a sling to rest the shoulder.


Chances are, McNown will have more collarbone bulging out above his shoulder after this injury, but with physical therapy to work on strength and range of motion, he should snap back from the injury.

WebMD Feature


Medical Information provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a division of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

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