Tampa Bay Buccaneers Quarterback Jameis Winston suffered an AC Joint sprain to his right throwing shoulder on Sunday after lading hard on it in the game against the Cardinals. The Acromioclavicular Joint (AC Joint as it is known for short) is the joint where the clavicle meets part of the scapula (or shoulder blade) called the acromion. The clavicle and the acromion are then connected by three ligaments (the coracoclavicular ligament (CC), which is made up of the conoid ligament and the trapezoid ligament, and the acromioclavicular ligament (AC)) all seen here.
AC Joint sprains or strains are generally graded on a Grade 1-6 scale which classifies the injury based on how much ligament damage is sustained and how much space there is between the acromion and clavicle.
Grade 1 is a simple sprain or strain to the AC Joint with little to no damage to the ligament and no noticeable separation of the bones. A Grade 2 involves a rupture or tear of the AC Ligament. Grade 3 involves a rupture of the AC Ligament and the CC Ligaments which generally results in an upward displacement of the clavicle. A Grade 4 involves the clavicle being displaced in a backwards direction. Grade 5 involves superior or upward displacement of the clavicle, usually 3 to 5 times more than normal and can usually be seen through the skin by the clavicle sticking straight up. Grade 6 involves a full rupture or tear of both AC and CC ligaments and the clavicle being displaced downward or nearly disappearing from view on the body.
The Rehabilitation and Return to Play
Depending on the level of pain experienced and the severity of the grade of the AC joint sprain suffered by Winston, he could return to play as soon as one week, or be out as long as four weeks (more if surgery were required). The main issue here is that the injury is on his throwing shoulder. Using the right arm repetitively (throwing in practice and then in game settings) can tend to flare up an injury like this one. Rehabilitation treatments will consist of anti-inflammatory medications, rest, gentle range of motion and strengthening exercises and possibly the use of some modalities. Strengthening will be performed to structures surrounding the shoulder joint as there are no muscles that attach directly to the AC Joint, until full arm strength is regained, but it may just come down to Winston playing through a bit of pain and discomfort.