Patient Education: Shoulder Sports Injuries

Sports Shoulder Injuries

Most shoulder damage involves the muscles, ligaments, and tendons, rather than bones which make it difficult to decide if the shoulder pain is from muscle soreness or a tendon injury. Common Types of Sports Shoulder Injuries

The group of muscles and ligaments in the shoulder is called the rotator cuff. It is located near the under part of the shoulder blade and provides stability and range of motion to the joint whenever it moves. Rotator cuff injuries are very common sport related injuries, especially in sports that require repetitive overhead arm motions.
Symptoms usually include pain, weakness and tenderness in the shoulder when reaching overhead, behind the back, when pulling and when lifting items. Symptoms may show up immediately or gradually, depending on the extent of the injury.

Bicep Tendon Tear
A bicep tendon rupture occurs when the tendon attachment separates from the bone. After this happens the muscle cannot pull on the bone and certain movements may seem weak and painful.

There are two types of ruptures:

  • Proximal bicep rupture, which is an injury at the shoulder joint
  • Distal bicep rupture, which is an injury toward the elbow joint

A distal bicep tendon rupture is characterized by sharp pain over the front of the elbow. Swelling and bruising around the elbow are also symptoms. A proximal rupture usually isn’t as painful.

Labral Tear
The socket of the shoulder joint is extremely shallow and inherently unstable. The shoulder joint has a ring of cartilage around the socket called a labrum that forms a deeper cup for the ball portion of the upper arm bone (humerus) to compensate for the shallow socket. This ring of cartilage increases stability of the shoulder joint, yet allows for a wide range of movements.

There are two types of labral tears:

  • Bankart Lesion Tear
    The bankart lesion is a common cause of instability in the shoulder. This kind of tear can occur from stress on the front of the shoulder when performing overhead activities like throwing or serving a tennis ball. Another way to develop a bankart lesion is when a shoulder dislocates. Symptoms of a bankart lesion often include a sense of instability and aching in the shoulder. The patient usually experiences repetition of the dislocation or a catching sensation in the shoulder.


  • SLAP Lesion Tear
    SLAP is short for Superior Labrum from Anterior (front) to Posterior (back). This type of labral tear is usually seen in overhead throwing athletes such as baseball players and tennis players. An injury to this part of the body typically happens due to overuse, trauma and accidents such as falling onto an outstretched hand. Symptoms of a SLAP Lesion include pain and soreness in the front of the shoulder when bending the elbow or turning the wrist. Some also experience a click or snap with movement of the shoulder and it may feel like the shoulder is being dislocated.


All patient education materials are provided by and have been reviewed by our Advisory Board of leading Orthopedic Surgeons to ensure accuracy. All materials are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from your orthopedic surgeon. Any medical decisions should be made after consulting a qualified physician.
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