The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, keeping the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder, which often worsens with the use of the arm away from the body.
In the context of an automobile collision, there are several ways a rotator cuff injury could occur:
1. **Direct Impact**: During a side collision, or if the car rolls over, the shoulder might directly hit some part of the vehicle, such as the door or window. This impact could tear or strain the rotator cuff.
2. **Seat Belt Force**: The seat belt’s shoulder strap could exert a force onto the shoulder during a rapid deceleration or impact, potentially causing a strain or tear in the rotator cuff.
3. **Bracing for Impact**: If a driver or passenger sees an impending collision and braces against the dashboard or steering wheel, the sudden impact could exert a force up the arm to the shoulder, potentially damaging the rotator cuff.
4. **Whiplash Motion**: Although we often associate whiplash with neck injuries, the violent back-and-forth motion can also affect the shoulders, particularly if your arm is outstretched or you’re holding onto the steering wheel during the accident. This can lead to a strain or other injury to the rotator cuff.
5. **Steering Wheel Impact**: In a severe front-end collision, if a driver is thrown forward, their shoulder may directly impact the steering wheel, potentially injuring the rotator cuff.
After a car accident, it’s important to pay attention to any pain, weakness, or stiffness in the shoulder, as these could be signs of a rotator cuff injury. Such symptoms should be evaluated by a healthcare professional to determine the extent of the injury and appropriate treatment.