You are minding your own business on the ski slopes, enjoying the day, when your skiis get twisted and you go down. As you put your arm down to brace your fall, you feel a thunk in your shoulder, and even though you have never experienced this before, you know your shoulder has dislocated out of socket.
A shoulder dislocation occurs when the ball, known as the humeral head, pops out of the socket, or glenoid. The shoulder must be set back in place soon in order to function. But while it may seem that the shoulder is fine once it is put back in place, there may be much more damage underlying. The labrum is the rim of tissue surrounding the edges of the glenoid that serves as the attachment to the ligaments that keep the shoulder stable in the joint. Many shoulder dislocations result in a tear of the labrum, particularly in younger patients.Shoulder dislocations in older patients often result in tears of the rotator cuff, the group of muscles that attach on the humerus to rotate the shoulder.
Tears of the labrum or rotator cuff may result in recurrent pain and/or instability and may require surgical repair. While the treatment of acute shoulder dislocations remains controversial, most shoulder with recurrent painful dislocations will require surgery. Fortunately, the surgical techniques have advanced to the point that most of these injuries can be very successfully treated with minimally invasive, arthroscopic surgery with excellent results, so you can get back to your normal active life.