Acute Shoulder Injuries

Sudden onset or acute shoulder injuries are ones which happen suddenly, often through a fall onto an outstretched arm or through direct impact, over stretching or overloading. Often the athlete will feel a sudden sharp pain with discomfort and/or loss of mobility. Sometimes there will be swelling and inflammation. It is important acute shoulder injuries are treated as soon as possible with the PRICE princples of immediate first aid. Always seek medical advice if pain is severe or you are in any doubt.

Rotator Cuff Tear

A rotator cuff strain is a tear to any of the four rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder and is common in throwing and racket sports. They are so called because their job is to rotate the arm at the shoulder and provide a supportive cuff around the joint. This shoulder injury can range from mild to severe and may be caused by activity in sports involving throwing and/or degeneration due to overuse.

Dislocated Shoulder

A dislocated shoulder is a traumatic and painful injury often caused by contact sports or from a fall. This shoulder injury can do further damage to the area surrounding the joint so it is important to seek medical advice immediately. A dislocated shoulder can be recurring, so we also identify some rehabilitation exercises that can help you recover from the injury and try to prevent it happening again.

AC Joint Separation

An AC joint separation, or AC joint sprain, is an injury to the ligament that holds the acromioclavicular joint together at the top of the shoulder. It is usually caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm and there can be different grades of damage. There will be severe pain and swelling on top of the shoulder, especially when trying to move the arm overhead. Read more about the different grades of this shoulder injury and what you can do to treat it, such as taping.

Deltoid Muscle Strain

The Deltoid muscle is the large muscle on the top & outside of the shoulder. Although not a common injury, an injured Deltoid can result in pain at the front, side or back of the shoulder, particularly when lifting the arm from the side to the front. Deltoid muscle strains are categorised into grades, depending on the severity of the injury, which can be read about below.

Bruised Collarbone Intro

A bruised collarbone is also known as a clavicle contusion and occurs after a direct impact to the collarbone at the front of the shoulder or chest. Shoulder pain and swelling are common symptoms, which can be eased by rest and icing the area. It is important to check and monitor the injury to make sure it is not a fracture and that there is no ligament or nerve damage.

Proximal Humerus - Fracture

A growth plate fracture, or epiphysis plate fracture, occurs at the end of a bone in children before the bone has fully turned from cartilage to hard bone. A proximal humerus fracture occurs in the upper arm, near the shoulder, and is normally caused by a hard impact like a fall. There will be severe pain and swelling in the upper arm and movement will be difficult.

Posterior Shoulder Dislocation

A posterior shoulder dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus moves backward out of the socket. This is a relatively rare injury as most shoulder dislocations are anterior. It may be caused by contact sports, car accidents or a fall. This shoulder injury results in a complete loss of function and severe pain, for which medical help is urgently needed.

Long Head Biceps Rupture

The biceps muscle splits into two tendons at the shoulder. The long tendon runs over the top of the humerus bone and can suffer a partial rupture causing pain at the front of the shoulder. This shoulder injury is more common in older athletes and can cause pain down the arm and swelling in the joint.

Shoulder Sprain

A shoulder sprain is damage to the shoulder ligaments or capsule which support the glenohumeral or shoulder joint. This is caused by a stretching of the fibers or partial to full tears of the ligaments or joint capsule, like if the arm is pulled backwards. The shoulder will feel painful and tender, often with swelling, which can be eased by rest and putting the arm in a sling.

Pec Major - Strain

The pectoralis major muscle is a large powerful muscle at the front of the chest. It is used to rotate the arm inwards. Its weak point is where the tendon attaches to the arm bone, and a strain or rupture can happen here when it is put under stress, when weight training for example. Symptoms of this shoulder injury include pain and swelling at the front of the shoulder.

Fracture Neck of the Humerus

A fractured neck of the humerus is often caused by falling onto an outstretched hand or a direct impact to the shoulder. It is seen more often in young adults, adolescents and the elderly. A sling will need to be worn to allow the fracture to heal, before commencing rehabilitation exercises. Read more on the treatment of this shoulder injury.

Supraspinatus Rupture

The supraspinatus muscle runs along the top of the shoulder blade and inserts at the top of the arm, or humerus bone, and is one of the four rotator cuff muscles. A supraspinatus rupture can occur from a fall and from activities like throwing, causing an immediate, sharp shoulder pain. The treatment needed to recover from this will depend on if the rupture is partial or full.

Scapula Fracture

A scapula fracture is a break in the shoulder blade bone at the back of the shoulder. This is a relatively uncommon injury, making up only 1% of all fractures, and can be caused by direct blows and car accidents. Symptoms include a severe shoulder pain at the back of the joint and difficulty moving the arms. Read more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of this fracture.

Clavicle Fracture

A clavicle fracture, or broken collarbone as it is also known, is a fracture of the clavicle bone. The clavicle runs along the front of the shoulder to the breastbone or sternum in the middle of the chest, and can be fractured by a fall. The fracture normally happens towards the middle of the bone but can also happen near the shoulder. The pain will be intense and medical help is needed immediately.

Deltoid Contusion

A deltoid contusion is a bruise in the deltoid muscle which is situated on the side of the shoulder. This occurs after a direct impact to the muscle, usually from a hard, blunt object such as a hard ball or an opponents elbow! Read more on the symptoms and treatment of this shoulder injury.