View Full Version : Type III A/C Shoulder Separation

April 10th, 2012, 12:12 PM
I am a 56-year old competitive pool and open water swimmer, and would appreciate advice regarding a Type III A/C shoulder separation I recently sustained. This is a fairly significant injury in which the collar bone separated from the shoulder bone, tearing all the connecting ligaments. I have met with two well-regarded orthopedic surgeons, both of whom work extensively with athletes (but not swimmers); they have given me conflicting advice. One says that because of the force I exert as a swimmer, surgery is the best option. The other doctor says surgery would not give me any better functional ability than just letting the scar tissue grow and bind the bones. They both agree that surgery can be done at any time with the same results; in other words, I can sit out for several months to see how my shoulder heals on its own, with appropriate therapy exercises, before deciding whether to try surgery. Because it is the prudent thing to do, that is the immediate course of action I will take.

In preparing for the possibility of surgery down the road, however, I am researching whether surgery would be helpful to a pool swimmer, especially one who competes primarily in sprint events. It appears that the only athletes with Type III separations where surgery is almost universally recommended are the hard-throwing ones -- baseball pitchers and football quarterbacks. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find anything dealing with swimmers. Iím hoping to get some anecdotal experience from any swimmer who has gone through this. If you have, or know of anyone who has, I would greatly appreciate hearing of your experience and whether surgery helped you get back in the pool with the same speed you had before your accident. Many thanks for any responses I get.

April 10th, 2012, 01:57 PM
Fours years ago I too had a type 3 shoulder separation, I did not have surgery and recovered fully with no complications. I cannot speak to the value of surgery but not having gone through with the procedure has not limited my swimming. I too swim competitively putting in typically 750K meters a year and in the 4 years since my injury have gotten increaslingly faster. My only downside is that I have a very strange bump on my shoulder.
My recommendations are that if you do not choose surgery find a good physical therapist and do everything they tell you to do. Take time rehabbing, run + bike (on a trainer) more while the shoulder heals. I was back in the water 2 months after the injury doing very easy workouts.

April 12th, 2012, 04:54 PM
Rodon, many thanks for your response. You've given me hope. I'm glad to hear that your shoulder separation did not end your swimming career. It's only been about three weeks since my injury, so I've several weeks yet before my doctors say I can get back in the water -- and then an even longer period before I get a true sense of what stress my shoulder will be able to handle. Hopefully, I'll eventually be able to resume competitive swimming without surgery as you have. Thanks again.