Floating Shoulder



This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • Motor vehicle or bike accidents
  • Falls
  • Being shot with a gun
  • Crushing of the shoulder
Shoulder Injury During Car Crash
car accident shoulder injury
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Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this injury are:

  • Not wearing a seat belt
  • Being around violence



Symptoms may be:

  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Muscle spasms
  • The arm of the injured shoulder hanging lower than normal
  • Numbness or weakness


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. Your shoulder will be checked. You may need to see a doctor who treats bones.

Images may be taken of your shoulder. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan



The problem is treated based on the level of injury. Options are:

Initial Care

Initial care may be:

  • Ice to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine to ease pain
  • A sling or shoulder immobilizer to keep the shoulder in place as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength and motion


The clavicle may be repaired with surgery using a plate and screws. The scapular bone may also be fixed with surgery. A sling or shoulder immobilizer will be used to keep the shoulder in place.


Many of these injuries happen due to motor vehicle accidents. Always wear a seat belt when riding in a car.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.