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Three Things Gymnasts Need To Know About Shoulder Instability

by Stella Robinson

Gymnastics training puts a lot of strain on your shoulders, so it's no surprise that injuries like shoulder instability can occur. Here are three things gymnasts need to know about shoulder instability.

How does shoulder instability occur?

Shoulder dislocations generally occur when you're training on apparatuses like the uneven bars; on the bars, your shoulders not only need to support your full body weight but also need to rotate in all directions. Shoulder dislocations can also occur during floor routines, either due to the forces of landing on your hands or due to the forces that you create when you rotate your body.

Once you've dislocated your shoulder once, it will be vulnerable to suffering further injury. This is because the ligaments that hold your shoulder joint together get loose or torn due to repeated injuries, and you'll be more likely to suffer further dislocations. Eventually, the frequently-injured tissues aren't able to hold your arm in your shoulder socket, and you end up with shoulder instability.

What are the signs of shoulder instability?

When you raise your arms above your head, you may feel like your arm is coming out of your socket; your shoulder joint may feel loose, and you may feel pain within your shoulder. Due to the instability, your shoulder may dislocate frequently, which can make it hard or impossible for you to continue training in the gym.

While you may feel like you need to work through the pain to meet your goals, it's very important that you don't keep training on an unstable shoulder. The frequent dislocation can stretch the nerves around your shoulder, and this can make your arm and shoulder muscles become weak. Weak muscles can spell the end of your gymnastics career, so take the time to get checked out by a doctor.

Can this injury be treated?

Conservative treatments like physiotherapy may be attempted first. The goal of physiotherapy is to strengthen the muscles around your shoulder joint to help it regain its stability.

Arthroscopic surgery can also be performed. This type of surgery uses a small incision and a camera to operate on your shoulder joint. The surgeon will try to repair the damage that multiple dislocations have done to your shoulder joint, which may include grafting bone to the shoulder socket or stitching damaged ligaments. After surgery, you'll work with your physiotherapist to ensure you have the strength and flexibility you need to return to gymnastics.

If you think you've dislocated your shoulder or that you're suffering from shoulder instability, stop training and see a doctor at an urgent care center like Meadowbrook Urgent Care right away.