Shoulder Dislocation : Judo Injuries

The ball and socket shoulder joint provides a large range of motion but also renders the shoulder relatively unstable. It is prone to dislocations more than all other joints, and in a fast paced contact sport like judo the risks of shoulder trauma and subsequent dislocation are increased.

Symptoms of Shoulder Dislocation

The symptoms can depend on the type of dislocation, but generally there will be significant and intense pain in the shoulder, plus the sensation of the shoulder popping out of position. There is often swelling in the area. You can usually see a noticeable change in the shoulder’s appearance (i.e. a lump or misalignment of some sort) where the bone has been dislocated. It can be very difficult to move the shoulder at all, and the sufferer may keep their arm pinned to their body. Depending on the cause of the dislocation and the severity of the incident, additional problems may arise such as numbness, arm discolouration or breathing difficulties. To be safe you should seek medical attention immediately.

Causes of Shoulder Dislocation

The mechanism of the injury is usually an excessive outward rotation of the arm while it is held out to the side of the body. This pushes the top of the humerus forwards and provokes an anterior dislocation of the joint. In judo these types of dislocation are mostly caused by falling awkwardly during a bout, either while grappling or when thrown by an opponent. Landing with great force and at high speed, particularly with the arm in a bad position, can cause dislocation. The other forms of shoulder dislocation (posterior, intra thoracic, superior or inferior) are rare, but can potentially arise in judo when falling on to an outstretched hand.


Athletes regularly sustain anterior dislocations that are treated without lasting problems. The most common complication is rotator cuff damage. However, when it comes to posterior and other rare shoulder dislocations there is a much greater possibility of widespread damage to components of the body associated with the joint. Nearby muscles, nerves, tendons and blood vessels are all at risk when a posterior dislocation strikes, and this can lead to prolonged injuries and a protracted, more involved process of treatment.

Medical Treatment

See a doctor as soon as possible so that they can put the shoulder back into place and assess the extent of the injuries. After this they will often place the arm in a sling for a period in order to limit shoulder movement and allow adequate opportunities for healing. Resting the shoulder is therefore very important, and strenuous arm activities must be avoided. In more serious cases, surgery can be required to repair damaged tissue or any compromised muscles, tendons etc.

Recovery time depends on the injury and how much treatment is necessary. Severe dislocations can take many months to fully recover. Patience is essential for recovery of all types of dislocation, with physical therapy helping to steer you back to judo and other activities when the time is right.

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