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A dislocated shoulder is a traumatic and painful shoulder injury requiring immediate medical attention as well as a full rehabilitation program if the athlete is to avoid re-injuring the shoulder.
A dislocated shoulder can be either posterior where the head of the upper arm bone or humerus dislocates out of the back of the joint or more commonly an anterior shoulder dislocation where it pops out forwards. We explain the symptoms, treatment, rehab and exercises for a shoulder dislocation.
Shoulder dislocation is a very common traumatic injury across a wide range of sports. In most cases, the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) is forced forwards when the arm is turned outwards (externally rotated) and held out to the side (abducted). This causes an anterior shoulder dislocation, which make up approximately 95% of all shoulder dislocations.
Dislocations can also be posterior, inferior, superior or intra thoracic, although these are very rare and can cause a number of complications and extensive damage to surrounding structures such as muscles, tendons and nerves. Posterior are the second most common form of dislocation, although still only account for around 3% of shoulder dislocations. These can occur during epileptic seizures and when falling onto an outstretched hand.
The shoulder joint is particularly prone to dislocations due to its high mobility, which sacrifices stability. It is the most commonly dislocated joint, with elbow dislocation, dislocated knee, dislocated finger and wrist dislocations occurring far less regularly. Although some consider this to be a minor injury, most shoulder dislocations cause tears to the glenoid labrum. This is a ring of cartilage which deepens the glenoid fossa and acts as a cup, in which the humerus rests, forming the Glenohumeral (or shoulder) joint – which can cause an injury known as a Bankart Lesion, and may even cause a fracture to the attached bone (a Bony Bankart Lesion). There may also be damage to the surrounding ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood vessels and fractures to other bones.
Shoulder dislocations commonly become a reoccurring problem, with many people learning how to reduce (re-position) them on their own. This is only the case in those with highly unstable glenohumeral joints.
A thorough rehabilitation program can help most individuals to prevent the shoulder repeatedly dislocating.
Although some consider this to be a minor injury, most shoulder dislocations cause tears to the Glenoid Labrum.
If you sustain a dislocation, it is vitally important to seek medical attention.
If you sustain a dislocation, it is vitally important to seek medical attention, even if the shoulder pops straight back into position on its own. There is a strong likelihood that you will need some rehabilitation to help you regain both the function of the shoulder, and to prevent it from dislocating again. Some cases may even require surgery if the shoulder is regularly dislocating, or if there is an associated fracture.
If the reduction is difficult it may be necessary to conduct the procedure under anesthetic.
Following a reduction you will usually be advised to:
Surgery is sometimes necessary following a dislocated shoulder if there has been extensive damage to muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels or the labrum. Surgery is then usually performed as soon as possible after the injury.
In cases of recurrent shoulder dislocations, surgery may be offered in an attempt to stabilise the joint.
There are a number of procedures which can be performed. The decision over which procedure to use depends largely on the patients lifestyle and activity. Some procedures result in reduced shoulder external rotation and so are not suitable for athletes involved in throwing or racket sports as this would affect performance.