Question:My daughter and I were in a car accident. She is a student driver and was hit from behind. The air bag didn't work and she struck her shoulder on the steering wheel. At first she seemed okay but now she's having trouble swallowing. Could that be from the accident? How could a shoulder injury affect swallowing?
Any time new symptoms develop after a car accident, a medical exam is needed. There are many vital organs and structures behind the breast bone (sternum) that could be damaged from the impact with the steering wheel.
A shoulder injury can also affect the sternoclavicular joint (SCJ). The SCJ is located where the clavicle (collar bone) connects to the sternum. There could be a partial dislocation or subluxation of this joint.
Don't wait to get her in to see a doctor. This may be an emergency and should be treated as such. Difficulty swallowing called dysphagia could indicate swelling of the esophagus or a more serious injury.Nicholas Gove, MD, et al. Posterior Sternoclavicular Dislocations: A Review of Management and Complications. In The American Journal of Orthopedics. March 2006. Vol. 35. No. 3. Pp. 132-136.
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