Sidelined by a Dislocated Shoulder

Medical Author: Benjamin C. Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

According to Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, he had dived for infield balls "3,000 times like that and didn't feel anything" but on May 8, 2009, he landed on his shoulder and it dislocated. It had been nine years since the last time it happened; the trainers tried to put it back in place on the field but failed. Team doctors relocated the joint in the locker room.

The shoulder is the most mobile and least stable joint in the body. Its ability to move in many directions makes it prone to dislocation and in younger people, sports injuries are a common reason. Throwing or reaching for a ball puts the shoulder at risk because there is little that stabilizes the shoulder joint. The glenoid fossa, the small cup that holds the humeral head (the end of the upper arm bone) in place is shallow and needs the help of the labrum, or cartilage, to deepen the receptacle for the arm bone. The rotator cuff, a group of four tendons, also helps keep the bones where they belong, but when those muscles are being stretched in a throwing or reaching motion, any excess force can pop the shoulder out of joint.

For regular people who dislocate their shoulder, it usually means a trip to the emergency room to get it put back in place. The injury causes muscle spasm relatively quickly, preventing the shoulder joint from easily relocating. Different techniques can been used to reduce the shoulder. Depending upon the cooperation and pain tolerance of the patient, medications to provide pain control, muscle relaxation, and sedation may be needed.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/1/2014