Shoulder Separation

The most common traumatic injury to an athlete’s shoulder is known as a shoulder separation. This occurs at the top of your shoulder, where the collarbone and shoulder meet. It commonly occurs when you are hit from the side or land on your shoulder with your arm at your side.


  • Ache with overhead and cross-body activity
  • Popping and clicking
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Trouble sleeping


Mild separations are common and can be treated with rest and a gradual return to activity as tolerated. The extent of your injury and level of athletic participation will determine when you can return to activity. Physical therapy can help rehabilitation by reducing pain, then increasing motion as tolerated. Full recovery is often achieved within six weeks.

When a more serious separation occurs, your doctor will use an X-ray image to determine the extent of injury and whether there are any associated clavicle fractures. Surgical repairs are occasionally required, particularly for overhead athletes and heavy laborers.