Whether it’s a pitcher firing a baseball at high speeds, a linebacker reaching to make a tackle or a volleyball player diving to keep a play alive, young athletes rely on their shoulders to help them perform at their best. But with increased use also comes susceptibility to injury.
“For many people and especially athletes, staying active is a main focus in their life,” says Steven Chudik, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Adventist Hinsdale Hospital. “We offer patients the latest technology and procedures to properly diagnose and treat shoulder injuries.” He outlines two common shoulder injuries below:
The humerus (upper arm bone) is connected to the shoulder blade through a ball and socket joint, which gives the shoulder more range of motion than any other joint in the body. However, it also makes the shoulder more susceptible to injury from trauma.
“If an athlete sustains a blow to the arm which forces it behind the body, such as during an arm tackle in football, the shoulder can pop out of its socket and dislocate,” says Dr. Chudik. Most people know they have a dislocated shoulder because they can feel their shoulder pop out of its socket. This injury may also cause ligaments and the rotator cuff to tear, exacerbating pain and recurrence.
Although sometimes the shoulder can pop back in on its own, many people still need to go to the ER to have it treated by a physician. An X-ray will confirm that the shoulder is back in place and rule out the presence of fractures. MRI and CT scans may also be used to see if the injury is more serious.
Orthopedic surgeons specializing in shoulders and sports medicine, like Dr. Chudik, use arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn ligaments and rotator cuff. Unlike traditional open surgery, an arthroscopic procedure to the shoulder only requires small incisions, less than half a centimeter in length. From there, an arthroscope (small camera) is inserted and allows surgeons to examine and repair the injured structures. Patients wear a sling for six weeks after surgery and once they have completed a rehabilitation program, can return to normal activities.
As football season comes into full swing, Dr. Chudik says broken collarbones, also known as fractured clavicles, become more common. If an athlete falls on their shoulder or another player lands on it, the shoulder can become driven toward the middle of the body and cause the clavicle to bend and break. If this happens, a person will often hear the break and experience pain, dropping of the shoulder and difficulty raising their arm.
X-rays are needed to diagnose this type of fracture because treatment depends on the severity of the injury. Although most clavicle fractures can heal without surgery, patients still need to wear a sling for about six weeks, often followed by a therapy regimen. However, surgery may still be necessary.
At Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, Dr. Chudik performs a cutting-edge procedure to line up clavicle fractures. Traditionally, fixing a fracture required open incisions and long metal plates with screws. With many clavicle fractures, Dr. Chudik can make a small incision and insert a pin down the middle of the bone to hold the fracture in place, which allows it to heal more effectively. “This procedure limits the size of the incision, which reduces scarring and restores normal function to the shoulder,” he says.
Staying active and pain free
Although not all shoulder injuries can be prevented, Dr. Chudik says simply staying in shape is your best defense. “If you maintain good shoulder strength, core strength, balance and general condition with a regular exercise program, you can better protect your shoulders and decrease your risk for injury,” he says.
For more information, or to find a physician, call us at 866-533-7968.