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What Types of Sports Injuries Can Affect the Shoulder?

A highly mobile joint, the shoulder is inherently unstable and prone to injury – especially during sports. The reason is easy to understand when you consider that many athletes continually perform overhead arm movements, such as throwing a ball or swinging a racquet, which place the shoulder joint under considerable stress. Participating in a contact sport such as football or hockey can also increase the risk of sustaining a shoulder injury.

The most common types of shoulder injuries that affect athletes are:

SLAP Tears

A superior labral tear from anterior to posterior is an overuse injury that affects the labrum (a rim of cartilage that surrounds the shoulder socket) at the point where the biceps tendon attaches. The symptoms of a SLAP tear include an ache deep within the shoulder, a reduced range of motion, a grinding sensation (crepitus) and a feeling that the shoulder is about to “pop out” of its socket.

Shoulder Instability

Instability occurs when the shoulder joint capsule becomes overly stretched due to repetitive use. As the joint loosens, the end of the upper arm bone (humeral head) can begin to move excessively, creating pain and irritation. An unstable, or overly loose, joint is prone to subluxation, in which the humeral head shifts partially out of its socket, and dislocation, in which the humeral head pops completely out of its socket. While a shoulder subluxation may cause short bursts of pain, a complete dislocation may cause a sudden bout of very severe pain. Both conditions can also cause bruising, swelling, arm muscle weakness and a reduced range of motion.

Rotator Cuff Tears

A rotator cuff tear affects one of the four tendons that come together at the upper end of the arm bone. This structure stabilizes the shoulder joint and facilitates arm movement. A partial rotator cuff tear occurs when the tendon at the top of the shoulder becomes frayed or damaged. A complete rotator cuff tear either severs the tendon or pulls it away from the bone. The symptoms of a rotator cuff tear are similar to those of a SLAP tear. Additionally, the associated discomfort can potentially disrupt sleep by making it too painful to lie on the affected side of the body.

If you participate in sports, you should be aware of each type of shoulder injury as well as its symptoms. That way, you’ll be more likely to recognize the need to seek prompt medical attention. This is important because early treatment can lead to a better outcome and a faster return to sport.

The sports medicine specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, provide a comprehensive range of shoulder injury treatments. To arrange for a personal consultation at one of our clinics in the Houston, TX, area, contact us today.