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Mr Anestis Iossifidis, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon who specialises in shoulder surgery | 24/08/2021

Common sports shoulder injuries

Common sports injuries

Almost a third of shoulder injuries occur during sports. Common sporting injuries include; Acromio-clavicular joint (ACJ) injuries, shoulder joint dislocations, rotator cuff injuries, Labral tears, biceps tendon tears, bursitis and fractures.

Whilst ACJ injuries, shoulder dislocations and labrum injuries are more common in contact sports (football, rugby and wrestling), rotator cuff, bicep and labrum tears are common in sports involving heavy weight-lifting or throwing. Sports involving direct impact and falls tend to lead to fractures.

So how can you tell which injury you have sustained? Before you visit a professional for a diagnosis, you may find yourself searching on google to find your own answers. Below are a list of injuries and what the likely cause would have been.

The obvious painful lump

Acromio-clavicular Joint (ACJ) Injuries : The acromio-clavicular joint is the hard lump on the top of your shoulder. Typically, it is injured in athletes, overhead throwing, contact sports or cycling. Repeated falls on the shoulder and tackling commonly lead to sprains. Furthermore, this joint may fully dislocate resulting in a more prominent lump on top of your shoulder. Sprained joints tend to cause more long-term pain than dislocated joints and whilst injections and physiotherapy may improve the pain, surgery is often required for persisting pain and disability.

The unstable joint

Shoulder dislocations / subluxations: The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body and the most common joint to dislocate. In some people, minor trauma can cause the shoulder to 'pop out' of joint and in more than half of young people, dislocations can recur. As repeated dislocations lead to more instability and shoulder joint bony and soft tissue injuries, we recommend early surgical reconstruction.

The painful and weak shoulder

Rotator Cuff Tendinitis: Also known as Bursitis, Impingement Syndrome or Supra-spinatus tendonitis, Rotator Cuff Tendinitis occurs with repeated overhead use of the arm. Older athletes may also develop bony spurs which press against the rotator cuff tendons above the shoulder joint. Injections and physiotherapy often improve the symptoms, but if the condition persists, keyhole surgery with cleaning of the subacromial bursa and removal of the bony spur may be required.

Rotator Cuff Tears

The rotator cuff is a group of tendons that provide movement and stability of the shoulder. Tears of these tendons result in pain and weakness. To stop the progression of the tear, early keyhole surgical repair is often required, especially in tears caused by injury.

The damaged biceps tendon

Superior labrum tears (SLAP): The labrum is the meniscus of the shoulder joint and the biceps tendon is attached to it. Labral tears occur with falls, direct blows to the shoulder, and throwing or pulling injuries. Superior Labral tears are more common in overhead throwing, heavy lifting and tackling sports, during which the biceps tendon anchored to the labrum in the shoulder joint, is pulled off its bone attachment. The resulting tear causes deep pain inside the shoulder with lifting and sports. Superior Labrum tears may be diagnosed with an MRI scan and confirmed and treated with keyhole surgery.

Biceps tendon Tears and dislocations: The biceps tendon tear at the shoulder is usually associated with a superior rotator cuff tear, whereas biceps tendon dislocation is associated with anterior rotator cuff tears. Biceps lesions are diagnosed with MRI scan and treated with keyhole surgery by an experienced shoulder surgeon. Early repair is advisable.

The seemingly unknown

Stiff Shoulder: A stiff and painful shoulder following an injury is common and it is essential to treat the stiffness early and also treat the underlying injury that caused the stiffness. An experienced physiotherapist and shoulder surgeon are a good combination for an early recovery.


Perhaps you play a sport and are curious to know what injuries often result from that sport. See below for a list of common shoulder injuries according to sport activity.

Rugby Shoulder: majority of injuries occur in tackles and in the second half of matches causing: Labrum injuries, unstable shoulder, ACJ injury, rotator cuff injuries.

Golfers shoulder: injuries include: Subacromial impingement, labrum tears, ACJ pain, Instability, rotator cuff tears.

Swimmers Shoulder: Repetitive overhead activity, with muscular imbalances leading to Impingement, bursitis, laxity, instability. Treatment involves addressing the muscular imbalance by an experienced shoulder therapist. Arthroscopic surgery may be required for subacromial impingement and shoulder instability.

Thrower's Shoulder: in repetitive overhead throwing the front of the shoulder can stretch and the back gets tighter. This can cause abnormal movement of the shoulder joint leading to rotator cuff tears and labrum tears.

Footballers: injuries result in: rotator cuff tears, labrum injuries, unstable shoulder.

Rock climbing: majority being overuse and fatigue injuries : impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tendinopathy, rotator cuff tears, labral tears and biceps tendinopathy.

If you suspect that you have a shoulder injury, please give us a call or fill out the enquiry form below. For more information on Mr Anestis Iossifidis, our Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon who specialises in shoulder surgery and authored this blog post, please visit his profile.

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