Written by attorney Edward Joel Lake

Rotator Cuff Tears after a Car Accident

A rotator cuff tear can include partial or complete tear of tendons or torn muscles in the shoulder. It’s just one type of painful injury that car accident victims may sustain in a serious car accident.

If someone else’s negligence was the cause of the crash, they may be held liable for damages suffered. This can include not only medical costs but other losses such as earnings, pain and suffering, disability and more.

Overview of Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff keeps a person’s arm in the shoulder socket. It’s what allows us to rotate or lift our arm. If one or more tendons are torn, it may no longer be attached to the humerus (upper arm bone).

Sometimes the tear occurs in a muscle or other parts of the rotator cuff. A torn rotator cuff may be accompanied by other injuries in a car accident, such as a dislocated shoulder or fractured collarbone.

Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Injury

Pain is the most common symptom accompanying a torn rotator cuff. It might be increased when performing certain actions such as reaching and pulling or lifting objects. Even when at rest or after taking medication, the pain may continue.

The following are other symptoms that may indicate someone has sustained a tear to the rotator cuff:

  • reduced range of motion;
  • weakness;
  • crepitus (crackling or grinding sensation);
  • tenderness; and
  • pain that lasts for longer than a week.

It’s important to have an imaging test—such as an MRI, ultrasound or X-ray—performed in order to determine the severity of the injury. From there a decision can be made as to the type of treatment the patient is to undergo.

Treatment of a Rotator Cuff Tear

In some cases nonsurgical treatment could be all that is necessary. This may include resting the arm or limiting certain movements. A sling can aid in keeping it still and protecting the shoulder. Inflammation and pain may be treated with medication.

Physical therapy can help strengthen the shoulder and improve movement. Special exercises may increase range of motion and flexibility. But when this doesn’t help, a cortisone injection could relieve the pain.

This isn’t always enough, though. And it may become necessary to undergo surgery. Generally this is done when the aforementioned noninvasive treatments haven’t worked, pain has lasted for several months, loss of function is significant or the tear is large.

Unfortunately, surgery means an extended recovery. And some patients may experience complications afterward, such as permanent stiffness. This could result in continued difficulty with certain movements.

Since a rotator cuff injury oftentimes requires a period of waiting to see if it heals and what types of treatment might be needed later, it’s important not to settle the car accident claim too quickly. If an agreement is reached but later the injured person discovers surgery is necessary, it would be too late to recover damages.

Always see a doctor after an accident no matter how minor and before accepting any settlement, discuss it with an attorney, especially if damages are significant and injuries are severe. Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help – call 800-246-4878.

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