As an injured athlete, one of the first things you want to know is when you can return to the sports you love to play. When your shoulder is dislocated, it can be tempting to rush back into the game once your initial pain subsides.
No one understands this better than board-certified orthopedic surgeon David Dickerson, MD, at Performance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Dickerson and our team help athletes and weekend warriors of all ages recover and get back into the game after many different types of shoulder injuries.
If you’re recovering from a shoulder dislocation, keep reading to learn what you need to know about returning to play.
Understanding shoulder dislocations
Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in your body. Because your shoulder is naturally an unstable joint, allowing you to move freely, shoulder joints are the most dislocated joints in the body. In fact, 50% of all major dislocations occur in the shoulder.
Symptoms of a shoulder joint dislocation include:
- A visibly out-of-place shoulder
- Intense pain in the shoulder or arm
- Inability to move your shoulder
- Swelling and/or bruising
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your neck or arm
- Muscle spasms in the shoulder area
This type of injury occurs when the upper arm bone pops out of the shoulder socket. It takes a strong force or extreme rotation to push or pull your bones out of place.
As such, dislocated shoulder joints happen most often in contact sports, like football, and sports that have a greater risk of falling, like gymnastics or skateboarding. It’s also possible to dislocate your shoulder due to a fall or injury not related to sports.
No matter how you dislocate your shoulder, this injury keeps you sidelined from sports while you heal. Some dislocations also involve additional complications, such as torn muscles, tendons, or ligaments, or nerve or blood vessel damage, which may require additional healing time.
All shoulder dislocations should be evaluated and treated by a trained medical professional, like Dr. Dickerson. Do not try to move the shoulder back into place on your own. This can severely damage the joint and surrounding tissues.
Returning to play after dislocating your shoulder
Most athletes who dislocate their shoulders can return to sports after their joint has had time to heal. Most treatments involve nonsurgical therapies like rest and the use of a sling, physical therapy to improve range of motion and strength, and the use of a brace as recovery progresses. In some cases, surgery may be required to stabilize or repair the joint.
Because getting back in the game too soon may lead to additional dislocations or other complications, get the approval of your doctor before returning to play. Dr. Dickerson understands your unique case and can provide you with a timeline that works to keep you in the game longer.
Athletes with a first-time shoulder dislocation can typically return to the game within six weeks after the injury, but younger athletes may need more time to recover to prevent a recurrence. If your dislocation requires surgery, you may need up to six months to recover.
In addition to a physical exam and discussion with you about your symptoms, we consider the following to decide when you’re cleared for sports again:
- Whether you’ve established full range of shoulder motion and strength
- Whether you’re able to perform all physical actions required by your sport
- Whether you’re pain-free during your daily activities
We help get you back in the game sooner. For help treating and recovering from a dislocated shoulder, contact us at one of our Performance Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine offices in Wall Township, Toms River, or Shrewsbury, New Jersey.