Rugby Injuries, Rugby Injury
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Rugby Pitch
Dislocated shoulder & Rugby


Dislocated shoulder Introduction


Shoulders are one of the most mobile joints of the human body and have the ability to move in varying angles. They can move in many directions which means the shoulder can dislocate forward, backward or downward, completely or partially. In addition, fibrous tissue that joins the bones of your shoulder (ligaments) can be stretched or torn, often complicating the dislocation. This level of mobility can leave the shoulders prone to injury.

A player suffers a dislocated shoulder when the upper arm bone comes out of the socket that is part of the shoulder blade. This is a more serious injury than a shoulder separation as it involves the shoulder socket joint as opposed to ligamentous damage.

Rugby players can suffer from this injury from a direct blow from a tackle or from a fall after a powerful tackle. This sudden impact pulls the bones in the shoulder out of place which is called a dislocation. If the upper arm joint is only partially out of the socket, it's called a subluxation. Immediate medical attention should be given to a player who has suffered this injury.

Dislocated shoulder Signs & Symptoms

Dislocated shoulder symptoms may include:

• A visibly deformed or out of place shoulder
• Swelling and bruising accompanied by excruciating pain.
• The player will be unable to move the shoulder joint
• The player may complain of numbness or a tingling sensation from the neck which can radiate to the arms, the shoulder muscles may also be in spasm.


Dislocated shoulder Treatment

A doctor will need to put the shoulder bones back into place using some gentle manoeuvres. The player may be given muscle relaxants or a sedative before this is done to reduce pain and swelling.

The doctor will then immobilise the shoulder using a sling or shoulder splint for several weeks until the associated ligaments that have been damaged heal. Painkillers or muscle relaxants may also be prescribed. The sling is kept on for about 2 to 3 weeks, during which time it is important that the elbow, wrist and fingers are kept moving to prevent them stiffening up.

Ice packs can be applied to the injured shoulder for 20 minutes every two hours (never apply ice directly to the skin). A reusable ice pack will relieve pain and reduce bleeding in the damaged tissue.

Regaining your strength

Once the shoulder splint or sling is removed a gradual rehabilitation programme designed to restore range of motion and strength to the shoulder joint will begin. It is advised that you avoid all rugby and other physical activities until you have a full range of movement and strength in the shoulder joint.

Following a shoulder dislocation and shoulder surgery, many people find that a neoprene shoulder support helps to provide added reassurance.


If your doctor can't move your dislocated shoulder bones back into position by manipulation then surgical manipulation (open reduction) may be necessary. The player may require surgery if they have a weak shoulder joint or ligaments and tend to have recurring shoulder dislocations (shoulder instability). In rare cases, the player may need surgery if the nerves or blood vessels are damaged due to the dislocation.

What you can do


Try these steps to help ease discomfort and encourage healing after being treated for a dislocated shoulder:

• This advice is obvious but you have to rest your shoulder. Do not return to rugby until you feel full strength and range of movement in the shoulder and limit gym work or any moderate/heavy lifting.

Apply ice and heat. Using a reusable ice pack on the shoulder will reduce inflammation and pain. This should be done every 2-3 hours for 20 minutes for the first 48 hours. After 48 hours you can use a reusable heat pack which you warm up in the microwave and place on the shoulder for 20 minute durations. This will help relax the tightened sore muscles.

Reusable hot and cold pack


  • Take pain relievers. Over-the-counter (OTC) non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen may help reduce pain. Seek advice from your doctor before you commence medication.
  • Keep your muscles limber. After one or two days, do some gentle exercises as directed by your physiotherapist to help maintain your shoulder's range of motion. Being completely inactive can lead to stiff shoulder joints. Once your injury heals and you have good range of motion in your shoulder, continue exercising. Daily shoulder stretches and a balanced shoulder-strengthening programme can help prevent a recurrence of dislocation. A physiotherapist can help you plan an appropriate exercise routine.

Rugby Rescue Recommends

5 Star Rating

Full Shoulder Support

Used for dislocated shoulder, frozen shoulder, broken collar bone, Rotator Cuff and Acromio-Clavicular injuries. Provides support, therapeutic heat and shoulder pain relief.

How does it work?

Fastens securely around both shoulders with the Velcro straps to provide support and re-assurance following a dislocated shoulder or injuries to the Acromio-Clavicular joint (shoulder separation).

The warmth provided by the neoprene support can be very therapeutic for those people who have frozen shoulder, shoulder bursitis or 'Impingement Syndrome'. The compression and warmth can also provide pain relief following shoulder surgery or following a broken Collar bone. Features Vulkan's patented spiral lining to remove excess perspiration.

When can I use it?

Many elite athletes such as football goalkeepers, baseball pitchers and rugby players and gymnasts use this product to give some re-assurance to previously injured shoulders.

Anytime for therapeutic heat and shoulder pain relief.

View the Shoulder Support which is ideal for dislocated shoulder treatment and prevention




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