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Ski Injury Spotlight: AC Separation

An AC joint separation, an acromio-clavicular joint injury, occurs with a fall onto the shoulder and side, which results in a ligament stretch/tear that loosens the joint. The results in the contacting bones of the scapula (shoulder blade) and clavicle (collar bone) to become stretched/separated and injured.

What causes a shoulder separation?

A shoulder separation often happens in snowboarding, during a fall into the side of the body or the shoulder. When the shoulder contacts the solid hill, the joint is stretched or torn which causes pain, apprehension to move your shoulder, and a lack of available movement. An AC joint separation will produce in pain into the top of the shoulder and a heaviness into the arm. It may also cause your muscles to feel weak and tired.

What to do about it?

The AC joint is protected by the muscles of the shoulder and of the chest. Initial rest is recommended, along with ice compression and elevation (RICE). If your shoulder is hanging lower on the injured sign, and your pain is significant, a sling may be beneficial to protect the joint as it heals for the first few weeks.  Physiotherapists will assess the joint and the entire shoulder complex (group of joints), and develop an individual treatment plan to get your shoulder healing and you back on the ski hill.  That may include: ultrasound, home exercises, taping, and more.


If you have injured this joint before, tape the joint backwards and together to better support the structures. To better prepare for the ski hills and any risk of shoulder injury, it is important to train the rotator cuff muscles. These muscle provides dynamic stability to the shoulder, which can help to prevent a shoulder separation should a fall occur on the hill

Have you suffered a shoulder injury?

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