Rotator Cuff Tears Commonly Associated with Auto Accidents

rotator cuff tears

The rotator cuff holds the upper arm bone (humerus) into the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff is comprised of four muscles that come together as tendons and form a cover (cuff) over the top (ball) of the upper arm bone (humerus). The rotator cuff attaches the humerus to the shoulder blade allowing the arm to lift and rotate.

Think of the rotator cuff as butterfly wings that spread out from the ball of the humerus to the shoulder blades, providing movement to the arm.

rotator cuff tears

A tear in the rotator cuff happens when one or more of the rotator cuff tendons is torn. A rotator cuff tear can be partial or full-thickness. A partial tear involves damage to the soft tissue without a complete sever. A full-thickness tear (complete tear) causes the soft tissue to sever completely causing a hole in the tendon.

A rotator cuff tear is a common injury caused by an auto accident. Because the shoulder is complex, injuries to the shoulder after a car accident are difficult to determine.

The shoulder pain may not appear for several days. Some people think the pain in their shoulder will go away, thus waiting to see a doctor. Sometimes even the doctor may not determine a shoulder injury until months later.

Symptoms of a rotator cuff tear include pain, weakness and friction/cracking sensation.

  • Pain at rest
  • Pain at night
  • Pain when lying on the injured shoulder
  • Pain lifting/lowering the arm of the injured shoulder
  • Pain with certain movements
  • Weakness when lifting/rotating the arm of the injured shoulder
  • Friction or cracking sensation in the injured shoulder

Seek medical attention immediately! The doctor will evaluate your symptoms, examine your shoulder and test your arm strength. The doctor may also order x-rays, an MRI, or an ultrasound.

If the exam and tests confirm a rotator cuff tear, nonsurgical and surgical treatment options are available. Nonsurgical treatment options may relieve pain and improve function, but they usually do not improve strength. Surgical treatment is recommended for consistent pain and people who are very active and constantly use their shoulder/arm for work or sports.

Nonsurgical Treatment

  • Rest and limited activities of the injured shoulder
  • Medication to reduce pain and swelling
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Physical therapy
  • Steroid injection

Surgical Treatment

  • Open Repair – surgical incision several centimeters long over the shoulder (often used for large or complex tears)
  • Arthroscopic Repair – a small camera (arthroscope) is inserted and thin surgical instruments through very small incisions
  • Mini-Open Repair – uses newer technology and instruments through a small incision (3 to 5 cm long)

Therapy is required after surgical treatment and is vital to rehabilitating the shoulder. Therapy is performed in stages. The first stage is to immobilize the arm for 4 to 6 weeks depending on the severity of the injury. Once it is safe to move the arm, the second stage begins with exercises to improve the range of motion of the shoulder. The third stage involves strengthening exercises. A complete recovery is expected to take several months.

Rotator cuff tears are serious injuries that involve extensive therapy, treatment and rehabilitation over an extended period. Rotator cuff tears affect the injured person’s quality of life and cause significant emotional and physical pain.

Most insurance companies will argue a shoulder injury is from a pre-existing condition or the result of degeneration due to age. The insurance company will try to deny the claim.


  • Seek medical treatment immediately upon onset of pain
  • Tell your doctor about every detail of the pain you are experiencing
  • Inquire about an MRI
  • If you are receiving physical therapy, keep your primary doctor updated on your progress – second opinions are important
  • Make sure your doctors and therapists provide thorough and detailed notes in your medical records

Contact us immediately if you are experiencing shoulder pain because of an accident. It is critical you seek consultation with us to avoid damaging your claim.

Berenz Law Network has been handling personal injury claims and car accident claims for over 15 years. We provide consultation and answer questions at no cost to you. Contact us today.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment