Common Shoulder Injuries in Sports

Shoulder injuries are common in many sports. Many athletes are at a high risk of injuries affecting the shoulder’s joint muscles, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. These injuries cause great shoulder pain and other symptoms, which make it hard to work out and compete. If you are experiencing shoulder pain, you must visit a physician since identifying your shoulder injury is the first step to healing. 

Dislocated Shoulder

The shoulder joint is the most mobile and flexible in the body, which makes it more vulnerable to dislocations as it moves in different directions. A shoulder dislocation is the partial or complete separation of two bones in the shoulder joints. During a dislocation, athletes hear a “pop” as the ball-shaped bone at the top of their upper arm pops out of its normal socket in the shoulder. 

Dislocated shoulders often occur in contact sports when you repeatedly fall on your shoulders or get subjected to hard impacts. You may experience symptoms such as a visibly deformed or out-of-place shoulder, inability to move the joint, intense pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling near the injury (neck and arm, primarily).

Athletes with dislocated shoulders should seek treatment immediately for evaluation and fixing. Physicians fix dislocated shoulders back to their proper position through manual manipulation, which relieves severe pain. After treatment, you can stop wearing a sling after a few days and resume most activities within two weeks. However, it takes about 12-16 weeks to recover from a dislocated shoulder completely. 

Rotator Cuff Injury

The rotator cuff comprises several tendons and muscles in your shoulder that connect your upper arm bone with your scapula. It helps with the free movement of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are caused by repetitive stress injuries or overpowered arm swings, which might tear one or more of these tendons putting athletes engaging in any sport that requires repetitive overhead activities at risk of rotator cuff injury. Rotator cuff injuries can be acute or chronic and might include:


This is the inflammation of the tendons in your rotator cuff. Tendonitis in athletes can be acute due to excessive ball-throwing or other overhead activities during workouts. It can become chronic due to wear and tear, which can be because of age or degenerative diseases such as arthritis. This injury is common among athletes who engage in sports like swimming, tennis, and volleyball.  

Tendon strain or tear

Partial or full splitting of the tendon might be because of an acute injury or degenerative changes in the tendons due to advanced age, an abrupt injury, or long-term overuse. When tendonitis is untreated, it might lead to tendon tears causing weak, persistent pain and inability to move your arm freely in a full range motion. 


This is an inflammation or irritation of the fluid-filled sac (bursa) between the shoulder joints and the rotator cuff tendons. They act like cushions between the bones and the overlying soft tissues. Excessive shoulder use can lead to swelling and inflammation.  

Shoulder impingement

Shoulder impingement is a common cause of shoulder pain when the rotator cuff rubs on the shoulder bones. The persistent pain results from swollen or injured tendons. If left untreated, shoulder impingement can lead to rotator cuff tears.

In most cases, you can identify an issue with the rotator cuff when you experience stiffness with your shoulder movement or feel pain when sleeping on the affected side. Treatment includes rest, surgery for severe injuries, performing strengthening and stretching exercises, ultrasound therapies, and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine.,  

Labral Tear

The labrum is a piece of fibrocartilage located on the shoulder socket’s rim and helps keep the joint ball in place. When this cartilage is torn, it is called a labral tear. Labral tears commonly develop due to falling, throwing, or pulling injuries or a direct impact to the shoulder. Athletes with a labral tear might experience the feeling of the bone popping, severe or persistent pain, weakness, and decreased flexibility in shoulder movement.

In some cases, a labral tear shoulder can be hard to diagnose. Physicians might have to perform thorough physical examinations such as X-rays, MRIs, or through shoulder arthroscopy – considered the most accurate and reliable. Treatment for a labral tear might include physical therapy, rest, strengthening and stretching your shoulders, or surgery. This depends on the injury’s severity and the athlete’s needs.   

Shoulder Sprains and Strains

A sprain occurs when the ligaments overstretch or tear. This happens if the upper arm is pulled hard enough to remove it from its normal position but not hard enough to dislocate it, leading to stretched ligaments. Sprained shoulders are considered minor sports injuries and are graded in levels. 

The first grade is regarded as the most insignificant, with little pain and some swelling, while the third grade is considered a major-level sprain injury with intense pain, loss of function, and significant swelling. 

Even though sprains cause less damage on the shoulder, they can cause more pain for a longer time than dislocations. 

Whereas sprains are ligament injuries, strains are tendon injuries. Strains occur when fibers in the muscles or tendons overstretch or tear, causing chronic or acute pain and limiting your ability to move or lift your arm. Treatment for athletes with shoulder sprains and strains includes physical and occupational therapy, injections, immobilization, rest, or surgery if the injury is severe.

Schedule an appointment with Alexander Orthopaedics

At Alexander Orthopaedic Associates, we provide innovative, patient-focused care using the latest orthopedic devices and new surgical techniques. Our customized treatment plans ensure that you’ll get back on the field in no time. Schedule an appointment with Alexander Orthopaedics today.