Connor’s Anterior Sternoclavicular Joint Dislocation Patient Story
Successful surgeries for athletes aren’t always defined by a return to sport. Sometimes, it can be as simple as going through your day without incessant pain–a reminder that your body isn’t in optimal condition. For Connor Grant, a former competitive swimmer of 12 years, that’s what the outcome of his surgery meant to him.
“I can do whatever I want, without any pain,” said Grant, reflecting on the current status of his shoulder.
But it wasn’t always that way. In the fall of 2021, Grant was at swim practice when he landed on his shoulder during dry land training. It resulted in what Grant described as a “constant clicking and popping” sensation of his collarbone.
For almost a year, he was prescribed physical therapy for a presumed torn rotator cuff and labrum. In reality, it turned out to be an issue unrelated to these muscles.
“I subluxed my collarbone,” remarked Grant. “But we didn’t know that for a really long time and couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t getting better.”
The unabating pain and dislocations despite efforts to rehabilitate his shoulder incited his physical therapist to seek out the advice of another physician. He recommended Dr. Petrigliano.
It wasn’t until meeting Dr. Petrigliano nearly a year after his injury that Grant discovered the pain and recurrent dislocations were due to a disorder entirely distinct from a torn rotator cuff and labrum.
After reviewing his MRI scans, Dr. Petrigliano correctly diagnosed his shoulder issue as an anterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation. Suddenly, there was hope for his shoulder healing.
“Dr. Petrigliano wanted me to know exactly what was going on,” said Grant. “He wanted me to know the reason for every decision we made,” he added.
His transparency lended Grant confidence in the surgery he would receive: an open reduction and soft-tissue reconstruction of the sternoclavicular joint.
This procedure entails drilling a keyhole into both the sternum and clavicle, with use of a cadaveric graft to restore and stabilize the position of the joint. After the surgery, Grant was in a sling for about six weeks.
Following the immobilization period, he had eight weeks of specific physical therapy and another month for increasing strength and maximizing mobility.
“The clicking is totally gone now,” said Grant.
Despite his remedied shoulder, Grant knew he didn’t want to return to swimming.
“By the time I was fully cleared to swim, I only had a month before [high school] graduation,” he said. “I really enjoyed having free time,” Grant remarked.
He added that fear of getting reinjured wasn’t a factor for him–despite its place as a leading reason that many athletes fail to return to sport.
It was enough for him that he was finally able to use his shoulder without the pain and clicking.
“I’ve been able to work out again, which is really nice,” he said.
Adversity often spawns new passions. And for Grant, it’s golfing with his dad that has found a comfortable place in his free time after graduating high school this past May.