How to treat a separated shoulder – Alex Smith treatment

how-to-treat-sholder-separation-photoWhat’s the best way to become a better quarterback in the NFL? play! Play! PLAY! You need the experience of the game to propel you forward. But, if your name is Alex Smith you’re in trouble. Alex Smith is the third year quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers and he has a separated shoulder.

Alex separated his shoulder in a  game on September 30, 2007 against the Seattle Seahawks. The play was the perfect set up for a shoulder separation. The defensive player landed on him at the right point, and the shoulder separated. It’s a injury that happens most in the sports that feature collisions such as football, hockey and rugby. You’ll also see this injury on sports such as horeback riding (is that really a sport) and motocross. Basically, if you either A) Open yourself to impact by having someone hit you or B) Experience impact through a fall, you stand a good chance of separating your shoulder.

What is a shoulder separation? A shoulder separation is exactly as it sounds; the acromioclavicular ligament either stretches too far or tears. This leads to your collarbone and scapula separating or moving apart. Now, what is the acromioclavicular ligament? It’s a band of ligaments attaching primarily your collarbone and scapula.

What are the symptoms of a shoulder separation? It all depends on the severity. There are six different severities of shoulder separation with the primary differences based on whether it is sprained or torn and if the acromioclavicular ligament has become displaced. The first three severities sports symptoms of soreness, uneasy motion, pain and a possible bump in the skin may appear. The last three severities, and God help you if you get these, will be very painful, motion is severely limited and will feature an obvious physical deformity.

How do you treat a shoulder separation? For severities one through three you can treat it by anti-inflammitories (sometimes steroids are needed), physical therapy, slinging of the arm affected, cold and hot therapy and rest. For the rest of the severities you’re going to need surgery.

McDavid Thermal Shoulder Wrap with Gel Pack

How long does it take to rehab a separated shoulder? For the first three severities it’s going to take between two to six weeks. Severity 1 is two weeks, severity two is four weeks and severity three is six weeks. You’re going to need physical therapy. Remember that bump? It’s not going to go away. For the last three severities you’re looking at a long road. The shoulder is a relatively complex joint, so after surgery there will be healing of multiple parts, during which the muscles will atrophy. Depending on the severity you’re dealing with a 8-12 week rehab period, with your shoulder never being as strong as it was prior to the injury.

Alex Smith most likely has a severity two separated shoulder, so I would expect him to be back in three weeks.


  1. i seperated my shoulder on november 14, 2010 by my flyer landing on my shoulder at cheer comp. i have worn a sling for 3 months. the swelling has went down but last week i went horse back riding last week on april 21,2011 i think i have messed it up again bc the pains are coming back. what should i do to help take care of my shoulder?

  2. er, no… i’m a QB and sustained a grade 2 separation 3 weeks ago. i get to stop with the sling tomorrow and can expect to think about throwing a ball in 10 more weeks.

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