General Information

Dislocation of the shoulder joint is a common sports injury that tends to occur in contact sports such as rugby.

The shoulder joint is made up of 3 bones:

  • the arm bone (humerus)
  • the shoulder blade (scapula)
  • and the collar bone (clavicle).

A dislocation of the shoulder joint occurs when the humerus comes out of its socket. The socket is called the glenoid cavity and is part of the shoulder blade. The shoulder joint is a ball- and-socket joint, allowing a wide range of motion. However, this means it is less stable and more vulnerable to dislocating.


  • Most commonly caused when an outstretched arm is forced backwards.
  • Less commonly caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm

What do I feel?

  • Severe pain in the shoulder.
  • You may feel the shoulder “popping out”.
  • Limited movement of the shoulder.
  • Altered sensation in shoulder region.

What can I do?

  • The dislocated shoulder should be put back into place by a health professional as soon as possible.
  • Initially avoid putting the arm in a position similar to that in which the dislocation was sustained, and wear a sling.
  • Engage in an active rehabilitation programme with a Sports Physiotherapist to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder.

If the dislocation is put back into place and looked after at an early stage, you should make a good recovery. The shoulder will take a while to heal, but be patient, continue to do your exercises, and follow guidance from your physiotherapist. Return to full sport usually takes two to four months.

Occasionally, young athletes have recurrent shoulder dislocations and surgery is considered. Post-operative treatment is similar to rehabilitation of a dislocation without surgery.

Poor management of a dislocation can lead to a chronic problem so it is essential to manage the injury appropriately.