Shoulder Dislocation: A Problem that Often Comes Back

I often see young patients who have dislocated their shoulder as the result of a sports injury.  Shoulder dislocations are common in young adults, especially in men.  Typically, the shoulder dislocates out the front.  We call this an "anterior shoulder dislocation".  Any time the shoulder dislocates it almost always causes a significant tear in the ligaments in the front of the shoulder.  We call this a "torn labrum", or a "Bankart tear."  These mean the same thing:  the structures are torn that normally hold the shoulder in place. 

In young people, a first time dislocation is often the precursor to multiple dislocations.  In other words, once you dislocate your shoulder once you are likely to dislocate it again.  Each time a shoulder dislocates, further damage is likely.  For this reason, the torn ligmanets must be repaired to minimize or eliminate the chance for more dislocations.  This surgery can easily be done arthroscopically as a same day procedure through three incisions. 

The recovery involves:
1) four to six weeks in a sling
2) eight to twelve weeks of physical therapy
3) six months before return to contact sports (football, soccer, hockey)

It is important to realize that a shoulder dislocation is different than a shoulder separation.  A dislocation means the ball comes out of the socket and generally requires a trip to the ER to put it back in place.  A separation is when the collarbone breaks free of the shoulder blade and causes a large bump on the top of the shoulder.  These are two very different problems!