Shoulder dislocations are a traumatic upper extremity injury that no one should ignore. Getting prompt, appropriate medical care after dislocating a shoulder is of great importance. A dislocated shoulder happens when the head of the upper arm bone (humerus) is completely knocked out of the shoulder socket (glenoid). The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the human body and is the most common site for a full or partial dislocation. These injuries happen most often when someone falls onto an outstretched hand or during contact sports.
According to Science Daily, if you have a dislocated shoulder you should:
- Promptly seek orthopaedic care – at the latest, within one week from injury – to ensure best diagnosis and treatment
- Monitor for possible nerve damage pre- and post-reduction surgery
- Once the ligaments have healed, appropriate counseling is needed to rehabilitate the injury and to prevent frozen shoulder
Access Sports Medicine & Orthopaedics’ physician and surgeon, Dr. Ben Thompson, has worked with many athletes who have suffered from dislocated shoulders.
“They describe feeling their shoulder shift out of joint, often popping back into place on its own when they hit the ground. Sometimes the shoulder stays out of place and needs to be put back into the joint by the trainer. This reduction is usually easily accomplished in the acute setting before spasm has set in, but should be followed up by referral to the emergency room for X-rays to rule out an associated fracture or another injury,” he said.
One of the major problems he faces when treating this injury is that the player did not tell anyone when they first suffered the episode because they did not want to come out of the game.
Some dislocated shoulders require surgery when a tear occurs. The process for recovery takes around six to nine months. However, if treated properly and medical attention is sought out immediately, a player’s risk of further injury decreases. If surgery is not required, a player can expect to be immobilized in a sling for three to ten days followed by physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder. Returning to sports is dependent on a pain-free range of motion and strength equivalent to the uninjured shoulder.
Dr. Thompson hopes parents and players can see the importance in seeking medical attention for shoulder injuries and suggests parents talk to their children. “Tell them no injury is benign and especially not one where they feel like their shoulder came out of joint. The athlete should report all injuries to their trainer so that they can be appropriately treated and referred to a sports medicine specialist if necessary. With proper communication, further injury, which would require surgical intervention and a prolonged absence from sports, may be able to be prevented. Communication will help keep your kids in the game,” he said.
For more information about shoulder injuries contact your local Access Sports Medicine office.