Acromioclavicular joint injuries are among the most common shoulder girdle injuries in athletes and most commonly result from a direct force to the acromion with the arm in an adducted position.
Acromioclavicular joint injuries often present with associated injuries to the glenohumeral joint, including an increased incidence of superior labrum anterior posterior (SLAP) tears that may warrant further evaluation and treatment.
Anteroposterior stability of the acromioclavicular joint is conferred by the capsule and acromioclavicular ligaments, of which the posterior and superior ligaments are the strongest. Superior-inferior stability is maintained by the coracoclavicular (conoid and trapezoid) ligaments.
Type-I or type-II acromioclavicular joint injuries have been treated with sling immobilization, early shoulder motion, and physical therapy, with favorable outcomes. Return to activity can occur when normal shoulder motion and strength are obtained and the shoulder is asymptomatic as compared with the contralateral normal extremity.
The management of type-III injuries remains controversial and is individualized. While a return to the previous level of functional activity with nonsurgical treatment has been documented in a number of case series, surgical reduction and coracoclavicular ligament reconstruction has been associated with a favorable outcome and can be considered in patients who place high functional demands on their shoulders or in athletes who participate in overhead sports.
Surgical management is indicated for high-grade (≥type IV) acromioclavicular joint injuries to achieve anatomic reduction of the acromioclavicular joint, reconstruction of the coracoclavicular ligaments, and repair of the deltotrapezial fascia.
Outcomes after surgical reconstruction of the coracoclavicular ligaments have been satisfactory with regard to achieving pain relief and return to functional activities, but further improvements in the biomechanical strength of these constructs are necessary to avoid loss of reduction and creep with cyclic loading.