Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The quarterback is struck… and it seems Big Ben’s shoulder gets clocked.
“Bruised ribs and bruised sternum are fairly common,” says Dr. Jon Tucker, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Clair Hospital.
Turns out, it wasn’t his shoulder at all, but a sternoclavicular injury.
The sternoclavicular joint is where the sternum, or breastbone, connects to the clavicle, or collarbone. A strain injury can range from a stretch to a tear.
Force from a blow to the shoulder can be transmitted along the collarbone, and the sternoclavicular joint gets stretched or sprained.
“You think of football as a collision sport, which it is, but it’s relatively low velocity,” says Dr. Tucker.
Typical treatment? Ice, rest, pain medication and a sling.
“Most sternoclavicular injuries in sports, in athletes, most of those injuries are relatively minor sprains. For that reason, players are treated conservatively,” Dr. Tucker continues.
It’s far more serious if the collarbone actually gets separated from the breastbone.
“Sometimes it can require a pretty significant surgery,” he adds.
Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had an MRI Monday night, with more evaluation today.
“Going to the hospital for an emergency MRI is always a little bit of a concern,” says Dr. Tucker. “[You can see] swelling, you can see bleeding, you can see torn ligaments, and one can also see if the joint is moved out of place.”
Of course, bruised ribs or any additional injuries could complicate the recovery.
“If it’s simply a relatively uncomplicated sternoclavicular injury, I think we’ll see him back on the playing field relatively soon,” Dr. Tucker surmises. “He might need to use a flak jacket for a little while, but hopefully he’ll be back in just a week or two.”
The most severe injury involving this joint is when the collarbone gets pushed back behind the breastbone. The danger there is the collarbone would press on the large, important veins and arteries in that area. No indications so far that this is the case.
If the injury is mild, recovery can be expected in days to a couple weeks, as opposed to weeks to months.