High impact, contact and repetitive motion sports are a common cause of injuries to the shoulder and elbow. Many different injuries can occur and the treatment may need to be tailored around a training schedule or specific sports demands.
But some of the ones we see most often in the clinic are:
- Shoulder instability – this can occur when the head of the upper arm is forced out of the shallow shoulder socket. The shoulder can become unstable and prone to repeated dislocation and injury.
- Shoulder biceps injuries and SLAP tears – these can be at the shoulder, for example in throwing athletes who damage the long biceps tendon in the shoulder joint (SLAP tear), or a significant tear of the tendon and muscle attached to the elbow (distal tear). A distal bices rupture may require urgent treatment to repair the tendon.
- Shoulder fracture – there are several different types of shoulder fracture. The most common is a clavicle fracture which tends to be the result of a fall. Other fractures include scapula fractures which are far less common and are normally the result of a high impact collision or fall from a height, and proximal humerus fractures which are fractures of the upper arm that are more common in older people.
- Rotator cuff injury – the rotator cuff is the group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and cover the head of the humerus, helping to keep it in the shoulder socket. It can become injured through a fall or sudden load on the arm or through repetitive overhead movements.
- ACJ injury – the acromioclavicular joint is where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade. A fall or direct impact can injure the ligaments of the ACJ and so, too, can repetitive loading such as heavy weights in the gym.
- Shoulder impingement – this is a painful condition that develops when the tendons or bursa get pinched by the bones of the shoulder. It can be caused by repetitive overhead loading of the shoulder. It can lead to inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons and bursa. In some cases, the rotator cuff tendon may begin to tear.
- Tennis and golfer’s elbow (epicondylitis) – these are painful conditions which can result directly from injury or from repetitive overuse and gripping.
- Elbow impingement – repetitive sports that load the elbows, such as canoeing, can lead to thickened soft tissues or spurs around the elbow joint that can catch. This often occurs at the back of the elbow with some stiffness and catching when the arm goes straight.