Treatment of Grade III Acromioclavicular Separations in Professional Baseball Pitchers: A Survey of Major League Baseball Team Physicians

Joseph N. Liu, Grant H. Garcia, K. Durham Weeks, Jacob Joseph, Orr Limpisvasti, Edward G. McFarland, Joshua S. Dines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite advancements in surgical technique and understanding of throwing mechanics, controversy persists regarding the treatment of grade III acromioclavicular (AC) joint separations, particularly in throwing athletes. Twenty-eight major league baseball (MLB) orthopedic team physicians were surveyed to determine their definitive management of a grade III AC separation in the dominant arm of a professional baseball pitcher and their experience treating AC joint separations in starting pitchers and position players. Return-to-play outcomes were also evaluated. Twenty (71.4%) team physicians recommended nonoperative intervention compared to 8 (28.6%) who would have operated acutely. Eighteen (64.3%) team physicians had treated at least 1 professional pitcher with a grade III AC separation; 51 (77.3%) pitchers had been treated nonoperatively compared to 15 (22.7%) operatively. No difference was observed in the proportion of pitchers who returned to the same level of play (P = .54), had full, unrestricted range of motion (P = .23), or had full pain relief (P = .19) between the operatively and nonoperatively treated MLB pitchers. The majority (53.6%) of physicians would not include an injection if the injury was treated nonoperatively. Open coracoclavicular reconstruction (65.2%) was preferred for operative cases; 66.7% of surgeons would also include distal clavicle excision as an adjunct procedure. About 90% of physicians would return pitchers to throwing >12 weeks after surgery compared to after 4 to 6 weeks in nonoperatively treated cases. In conclusion, MLB team physicians preferred nonoperative management for an acute grade III AC joint separation in professional pitchers. If operative intervention is required, ligament reconstruction with adjunct distal clavicle excision were the most commonly performed procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican journal of orthopedics (Belle Mead, N.J.)
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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