Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Injuries
NASPE/NCAT Sport Injury Resource

Shoulder dislocations are different from a shoulder separation in that the entire upper arm bone (humerus) “pops” out or dislocates from the shoulder socket (the shoulder socket is referred to as the glenohumeral joint). Dislocations can occur from falling down on the shoulder, falling down on an outstretched arm, or from having the arm pushed backwards while the arm is out to the side at shoulder level.

The athlete experiences a lot of pain with a shoulder dislocation, especially for a first time dislocation. You will observe a deformity over the shoulder area. Most often you will notice the shoulder drop off rather than appear rounded like the other side. You may see or feel a large mass in front of the shoulder, near the armpit area. This mass is the end of the upper arm bone that has dislocated from the shoulder socket. The athlete will not be able to lift or move the arm
DO NOT try to reduce or put a shoulder dislocation back in place. There are major nerves and arteries in the shoulder area that could be compromised if an untrained person attempts to put the bone back into place. Only trained medical personnel should reduce a shoulder dislocation.

Apply ice to the shoulder area and secure the arm in the most comfortable position. Usually this position includes placing a pillow or towel in between the arm and body and allowing the lower arm to rest on the belly (hook the thumb or hand in the waistband if a sling is not available). Also check circulation of the radial pulse just below the thumb on the inside part of the wrist. Check sensation by asking if the athlete has any numbness or tingling in the fingers. If circulation or sensation is affected, transport the athlete to the emergency room immediately.

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