Common Shoulder Injuries In Football

January 31, 2020 | By: Raleigh Orthopaedic Team

Football leads all other sports in the number of injuries that occur during play. The rough nature of the sport and high-speed contact make injuries common. Whether athletes are tackled or collide into each other, their bodies absorb the impact, which can cause serious injury.

Shoulder injuries are common in football, occurring from contact with other players or the ground or from repetitive throwing injuries. As a leading provider of sports medicine, Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic has great knowledge and experience treating shoulder injuries that are associated with football activity.

Types of Shoulder Injuries

Listed below are seven of the most common types of shoulder injuries experienced by football players:

  1. Shoulder Tendonitis

    Tendonitis is the irritation and inflammation of the tendons within the shoulder, typically caused by excessive throwing motions. Common among quarterbacks, the biceps tendon is most commonly affected by tendonitis.

  2. Shoulder Dislocation

    A shoulder dislocation may occur either from an overly strenuous arm movement or a traumatic impact with another player or the ground. Shoulder dislocations involve the separation of the ball (humerus) and socket (scapula) joint that makes up the shoulder.

  3. Shoulder Separation

    Shoulder separations are more severe than dislocations; they occur when the ligaments attaching and stabilizing the collarbone (clavicle) are partially or fully torn from the shoulder blade (scapula).

  4. Anterior Shoulder Instability

    Common among players of positions that require far-distance or repetitive throws, anterior shoulder instability involves the slipping of the humeral head in and out from the shoulder socket. When this occurs frequently, it may be diagnosed as chronic instability.

  5. Rotator Cuff Injuries

    Rotator cuff tears are usually an overuse injury from repetitive motion such as throwing a football but can also occur from contact with another player or a fall. There are two different types of rotator cuff tears: partial tear and complete tear. In a partial tear, the tendon is not completely detached from the bone, whereas a complete, full-thickness tear occurs when the tendon is torn away from the bony attachment. A complete tear can’t heal on its own and must be repaired with surgery to regain full range of motion and function. Symptoms include pain when lifting arm, weakness in shoulder, a snapping feeling when trying to move the affected arm, or pain that worsens at night.

  6. SLAP Tears

Superior labrum anterior to posterior tears, also known as SLAP Tears, occur when the top section of the shoulder’s labrum (where the biceps tendon is attached) is injured.   

  1. Internal Impingement

    Certain overhead throwing motions common in football can cause the rotator cuff tendon at the back of the shoulder to become pinched between the humeral head and the glenoid; this is sometimes caused by anatomical shoulder looseness and may damage the rotator cuff or labrum.


For mild shoulder soreness or injuries, rest and icing generally are effective in treating the injury and reducing pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can also help reduce pain. If swelling, redness, warmth, or pain persists after several days, you should see a doctor to be evaluated.

If you’re experiencing consistent shoulder pain that rest, ice, or anti-inflammatory medication doesn’t relieve, you should a Raleigh Orthopaedic shoulder specialist. Discuss your symptoms and how the injury happened. A physical examination will be performed, and you’ll likely undergo tests that may include X-ray, ultrasound, or MRI.

Injury Prevention

Although many injuries on the football field are traumatic accidents, there are some tips to keep shoulders safe from injury:

  • Always wear regulation safety equipment and padding that fits properly, especially shoulder pads.
  • Always utilize correct technique when throwing, tackling, and blocking.
  • Participate in football-specific strength and conditioning training to ensure the appropriate muscles and ligaments are strengthened and prepared for activity. Increase in flexibility will also cause less proneness to injury.
  • Maintain fitness not only during football season but throughout the year.

It’s important not to ignore a shoulder injury because it could become more serious and painful. Contact one of Raleigh Orthopaedic’s shoulder specialists if you’ve been experiencing painful symptoms for more than a couple of days.

You don’t have to be a professional football player to receive professional care at Raleigh Orthopaedic Clinic. Learn more about sports medicine treatment at Raleigh Orthopaedic.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us at (919) 781-5600 to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our Raleigh Orthopaedic Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists. For your convenience, sport medicine treatments are offered at five of our locations:

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