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Dislocated Shoulder: Overview

What is a dislocated shoulder?

A dislocated shoulder, also known as shoulder instability, is a condition in which the humeral head (ball) comes out of the glenoid (socket). The shoulder is the most frequently dislocated joint in the body. It usually occurs during contact sports such as football, basketball, wrestling and hockey. It can also dislocate from a fall in sports like skiing.

Most commonly, the ball dislocates to the front of the socket (anterior dislocation of the shoulder). Fewer than 5% of all dislocations occur in other directions.

Who is at risk for a dislocated shoulder?

The most commonly affected are male, adolescent athletes involved in contact sports. Shoulder dislocation is difficult to prevent, but proper technique and training can help.

Adolescents suffering a first-time shoulder dislocation are at high risk for dislocating again, even with proper initial treatment. The reason for this is that when the shoulder dislocates, it can tear some of the ligaments and cartilage that function to stabilize the joint. This is called a Bankart lesion.

Some athletes are at very high risk for a second dislocation. In these individuals and in patients who have dislocated a second time, surgical repair of the Bankart lesion provides the best chance at stopping future dislocations.

Resources for your child’s dislocated shoulder:

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