Your shoulder’s joint socket is surrounded by a structure called the labrum; this ring of cartilage supports the joint. Falling on your arm or using the joint repetitively in sports that require lots of throwing, such as softball and baseball, can partially or completely tear this tissue. This condition is known as a glenoid labrum tear.
Symptoms of this condition commonly include a decreased range of motion in the arm, a feeling of instability in the shoulder joint, pain when you raise the arm above shoulder level, and the sensation of grinding or popping when you move the arm.
If you think you have torn your glenoid labrum, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she can diagnose you using X-rays (to rule out any other possible causes of your pain) and by doing a physical examination.
If you do have a glenoid labrum tear, your physician likely will direct you to take anti-inflammatory pain medication, such as ibuprofen, to cut down on swelling and dull the pain. He or she might also recommend physical rehabilitation exercises to help your shoulder heal. If these measures don’t take care of your glenoid labrum tear, surgery may be necessary to remove or repair flaps of torn cartilage around your shoulder joint. Wires or tacks may also be necessary to stabilize a heavily damaged joint. You also will have to immobilize the affected arm in a sling for three or four weeks after the surgery to let it heal.
At this point, you can begin rehabilitation exercises to strengthen the shoulder and bicep muscle, and although it takes three or four months for the shoulder to completely heal, you can begin some easy training specific to your sport six weeks after surgery. Starting slowly and increasing training gradually can help you avoid re-injuring yourself.
When the shoulder blade, or scapula, sticks out, sometimes causing pain or pressure, the condition is known as winged scapula. The scapula sticks out most when you lift your arms or when you push against something with your arms, and you might have stiffness or trouble elevating your arms all the way. It may also be difficult to lift objects that ordinarily are not too heavy for you.
Winged scapula results from nerve damage along the shoulder from trauma to the joint or a contusion, such as being hit by a ball or another player in contact sports such as football. When this nerve is damaged or bruised, it can paralyze a muscle in the shoulder known as the serratus anterior muscle, allowing the scapula to poke out abnormally. From the time of trauma to when the scapula begins to stick out, weeks may elapse, since the the muscle known as the trapezius must stretch before the shoulder blade can protrude.
If you think you have a winged scapula, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she can conduct tests to evaluate the extent of the nerve damage. Then, he or she might prescribe rehabilitation exercises to re-train the shoulder muscle, if the damage is mild. If damage is more extensive, however, surgery might be necessary. A surgeon will make a small incision to decompress the nerve that has been damaged. As you recover, sleeping in certain positions and maintaining proper posture can help the nerve heal.
When the joint between the shoulder blade, or scapula, and humerus, or upper bone of the arm, becomes stiffened or less supple, it causes a condition known as frozen shoulder. When this occurs in athletes, it’s often due to trauma to the shoulder joint and is also called post-traumatic stiff shoulder. Sports that increase the risk of frozen shoulder include those that may cause you to fall, such as ice skating. The condition can also develop after a period of not using the shoulder joint at all. It’s most common among older athletes.
Symptoms commonly include aching, pain and loss of mobility in the affected shoulder. The shoulder often will heal itself without surgical intervention. However, if you think you may have frozen shoulder, consult a sports medicine specialist. He or she will examine your shoulder to establish the cause of your stiffness, and determine the extent of the damage to the joint.
You may be directed to perform rehabilitation and strengthening muscles for your shoulder, avoiding overstretching the joint. If these exercises prove ineffective, oral or injected steroids might be considered to help the shoulder heal. And if that doesn’t heal the shoulder, surgery may be necessary to release the stiffened shoulder capsule.
The prognosis for frozen shoulder is generally positive; most people’s shoulders return to normal without surgery, although it may take one to three years to heal.