Shoulder injuries in rugby

24 September 2019

The Rugby World Cup in Japan is now upon us and the eyes of the world are focused on the great sport of rugby union. Rugby union is a hugely physical contact sport and a consequence of this is that many players will suffer injuries.

Injuries to the shoulder actually account for 46% of participation days lost at professional level during a normal season. Shoulder injuries can occur during the tackle, from a direct impact from another player or during a fall to the ground. There are many different types of shoulder injury that can occur including dislocation or subluxation (partial dislocation) of the glenohumeral joint, labral tears, Acromioclavicular (AC) joint sprains or dislocations, fractures and tendon tears. A glenohumeral joint dislocation will be treated immediately with reduction of the joint but often the player will need an operation later to minimise the risk of it happening again. A labral tear can cause ongoing pain, clicking, limitation of certain activities or even recurrent episodes of dislocation. A player who continues to have symptoms despite physiotherapy will require keyhole (arthroscopic) surgery to treat the tear.

Injuries to the AC joint are very common and are often caused by a direct impact such as during a tackle or from a player landing heavily on the shoulder.  Fortunately, most injuries are sprains and are treated non-operatively with physiotherapy and occasionally a steroid injection to reduce pain and swelling. A full dislocation of the AC joint occasionally requires reconstruction of the joint depending on the severity of the dislocation or if not recovering with physiotherapy.

Fractures around the shoulder are fortunately relatively rare in adult professional players and the clavicle (collar bone) is the most commonly affected bone. Sometimes the fracture will require an operation to fix it.

Tears of the rotator cuff, pec major tendon, latissimus dorsi or biceps are rare. However, if a traumatic tear does occur to any of these tendons then an operation to repair them is usually recommended.

It is crucial that a correct diagnosis is made by the player’s medical team, therapist and orthopaedic specialist. X-rays, ultrasound scans, MRI scans and MR Arthrograms all have a role in investigating injuries. Once the correct diagnosis is made then a co-ordinated treatment plan between the player, therapist and surgeon can be made and optimise the player’s recovery.

If you’re suffering from a shoulder injury, rugby player or not, book in to see Mr Corner today and kick start your recovery. Call our friendly self-pay team today on 01582 788 412.

Mr Tony Corner
Orthopaedic Shoulder Surgeon
Spire Harpenden Hospital

“I have received superb care and service from all concerned. Mr Corner is clearly a top consultant in his field, I felt in very safe hands. He just happens to be an extremely decent bloke too. The whole experience was terrific."
- Mr Corner patient treated at Spire Harpenden Hospital

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