Watching the Olympic athletes reminds me that fall sports are gearing up again and that means sports related shoulder injuries. Many athletes may experience a shoulder joint dislocation which could damage the shoulder leading to shoulder instability. Most of these are a result of traumatic injuries such as falling on the outstretched arm, forceful throwing or lifting, or contact with another player.
By the Numbers
- In 45 percent of shoulder joint instability injuries, young athletes lost more than 10 days from sport.
- Young male athletes are at greatest risk of shoulder joint instability injuries and recurrences.
- In one study, the rate of athletes re-injuring their shoulder was higher in patients younger than 23 years of age than patients older than 30 years of age.
- Young athletes between the ages of 15 to 20 years of age who were treated non-surgically had an injury recurrence rate of 87 percent.
- Arthritis of the shoulder occurred in up to 40 percent of athletes with recurring shoulder instability injuries.
Young athletes who have a shoulder dislocation often tear their labrum or ligaments of their shoulder leading to pain, numbness, or loss of motion. I advise many patients to consider non-surgical treatments including temporary bracing, and rehabilitation. Usually return to sports happens when a pain free full range of motion is restored.
However, some athletes cannot return to competition and surgical repair of the shoulder may be needed. Although it removes them from the season they can often rehabilitate and return in 6-9 months to their sport.
It is always tough to make return to play decisions but we need to educate and involve the patient, family, coaches, and trainers with good evidence based options about these serious injuries My goal is to make the best decision for each athlete about their return to sports with the goal of a painless full range of motion .