Written by Sharon Freeman.
Out of 7.5 million patients treated for shoulders injuries in North America, at least 4.1 million occur most often in sports. They occur more often in athletics due to powerful and excessive overarm motion notable in swimming, pitching baseballs, throwing balls and swinging tennis rackets.
Learn the warning signs for shoulder injuries
Athletes can help care for their shoulders health by learning the signs of injury developing so they can take measures to prevent further damage that could result in surgeries.
- Shoulder stiffness: Normal rotation of the shoulder may be limited due to stiffness.
- Different sensations: The shoulder may feel as if it will either pop out of joint or slide in an odd and uncomfortable way.
- Strength: Weakness may result that reduces normal activity and ability to lift, press, or push with significant strength.
These tell-tale signs should raise flags. An orthopedic surgeon will be able to examine the shoulder in the office with range of motion tests and he may request x-rays and MRIs to check for further damage and evaluate whether surgery is necessary to repair the shoulder.
Common Shoulder injuries
Most people who try to self-diagnose what is happening to their shoulders will call it a rotator cuff injury. While that may be correct in some cases, it is not always correct. Surgeons group certain types of injuries to the shoulder into two categories:
- Instability injuries happen when a joint or bone in the shoulder moves out of its correct position, aka dislocated shoulder. This type of injury is recognizable if the patient has intense pain when lifting the arm and feels a sensation that their shoulder is moving out of place.
- If an athlete tends to use overarm motion with excessive force, like a baseball pitcher or a football quarterback, the muscles may tend to rub against the shoulder blade. This type of injury is grouped under the category, Impingement.
What is a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The rotator cuff is actually a grouping of muscles and tendons in the shoulder that provide the human body with stability for lifting and overarm motion. If an athlete experiences inflammation to these muscles and tendons, early treatment is recommended to prevent severe damage. If severe damage occurs the athlete may never really regain full strength to that shoulder. Surgery may help in some cases.
Treatments for Sports Shoulder Injuries
Treatments for sport shoulder injuries include less invasive physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications that help with the injury itself and help the athlete change his mechanics to prevent re-injury. However, if the injury is severe surgery may be required to repair the damage. Post-surgery PT will help with recovery and retrain mechanics to prevent re-injury.
Surgeries for shoulder injuries have come a long way. Less invasive procedures have been added to the repertoire a surgeon may have to choose from for a respective patient.
- Orthoscopic Surgery allows the surgeon to use a smaller incision and use a tube with a small camera so the surgeon can see and repair the damaged area. The results are similar to other shoulder surgeries, but the recovery time may be lessened.
- Bankart Procedure is used on athletes who throw a lot in their sport. This procedure tightens ligaments and repairs torn tissues to bring back proper shoulder stability.
- Rotator Cuff Repair: Repairs tears to the rotator cuff and helps return stability and range of motion. It also helps reduce pain.
These are the treatments and surgeries usually provided to athletes so they can return the games they love to play. Do not try to self-diagnose your pain and injury. Consult a sport doctor about what is going on with you and follow your doctor’s advice.