Injury to the acromio-clavicular (AC) joint in the shoulder is common in contact sports such as rugby. The joint is usually injured by a fall to the side or by a direct blow to the shoulder.

The AC joint is supported by a number of ligaments; therefore it is important to allow the appropriate time for these ligaments to heal after injury.

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a joint on top of the shoulder. Two bones are joined together by a number of strong ligaments and a joint capsule. It is a strong joint but is prone to injury in contact sports. The AC joint provides stability to the shoulder joint and also aids with the correct movement about the joint.

Injury

An injury to the AC joint can be caused by:

  • falling onto your shoulder.
  • direct impact on the AC joint, e.g. a heavy tackle in rugby What do I feel?
  • Sharp pain over the point of the shoulder.
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness may be present.
  • Difficulty lifting arm to the side or front.

What can I do?

  • Stop the activity.
  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation).
  • A sling to support arm may be helpful.
  • See a physiotherapist for rehabilitation and exercises.

Rehabilitation and management for injuries to the AC joint vary due to the many different grades of injury that may occur. When ligament damage has occurred, it may take up to six weeks to return to play. If surgery is required, it will take longer. Return to sport indicators are: no tenderness over the joint and full pain free range of motion at the shoulder joint. It is very important that you consult your health professional for the correct management of this injury.

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is a joint on top of the shoulder. Two bones are joined together by a number of strong ligaments and a joint capsule. It is a strong joint but is prone to injury in contact sports.

The AC joint provides stability to the shoulder joint and also aids with the correct movement about the joint.