Injury and aging can impact the most complicated joint in the body
When talking about the human body, the brain is considered the most complex organ as it controls everything, including our movement, thoughts and memory. When it comes to joints in our body, some believe those in the foot or hand are the most complicated, but you may be surprised to learn that it’s the shoulder that is the most complex joint we have, and when injuries occur, they can be debilitating on many levels.
In a split second, Drew Brees saw his career flash in front of him
No one understands the seriousness of a shoulder injury better than New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. In 2005 while playing for the San Diego Chargers, Brees tried to recover a fumble and suffered what many said was a career-ending shoulder injury. Brees noted that he immediately knew something horrible had happened. His first thought was that he would never wear a Chargers uniform again, and then he said, “It registers that it might be the last time I ever put on a football uniform of any significance." As we know, Brees recovered, but it took a complicated surgery and months of intensive rehabilitation. Regardless of whether you are a professional athlete, a weekend warrior, or suffering from an age-related issue, a shoulder injury can be debilitating if not diagnosed early and properly treated as the healing process is key to long-term health and movement.
The shoulder is prone to injury, and that’s because it is a complex system that consists of:
- Four different joints
- Five groups of bones
- Over twenty muscles
- Several intricate ligaments, which are bands of elastic tissue around your joints that connect bone to bone.
This joint has the greatest range of motion in the human body, and it is something we use almost all the time. An injury to one part of the shoulder can impact multiple areas and significantly interfere with movement. While playing sports does lead to many injuries, even those who don’t participate in athletic activities can suffer from an injury due to repetitive use as our shoulders begin to suffer ‘wear and tear’ as we grow older.
Five common shoulder injuries
Regardless of whether you are playing tennis or doing yard work, you are using your shoulders, and there are many issues that can cause an injury:
- Shoulder instability – this occurs more often in younger people, especially those during growth spurts, and athletes of all ages. When we are growing, sometimes muscles and ligaments are dramatically stretched, and the shoulder becomes unstable. Repetitive motion, such as throwing a baseball or tackling, can also cause instability.
- Rotator cuff tear – there are groups of muscles and tendons in the upper arm that support the arm and shoulder and allows for an extensive range of motion. One group is known as the rotator cuff. When injured either by a strain or tear, the rotator cuff becomes extremely painful, and in severe cases, prevent you from even lifting your arm.
- Tendinitis – again, a tendon is connective tissue, and if that tissue becomes inflamed, the result is known as tendinitis, which can cause painful movement of the shoulder.
- Bursitis – this condition involves small, fluid-filled sacs, known as bursae, that cushion bones, tendons and muscles near joints. When these sacs get inflamed, it can cause a great deal of pain in the shoulder.
- Arthritis – as we age, many of our joints begin to show signs of wear and tear, including the smooth cartilage that covers the joints. When this cartilage starts to wear away, movement can cause pain.
As you now understand, the shoulder is a complicated joint that can be damaged in many different ways over your lifetime. The specialists at the Jefferson Orthopedic Clinic treats all types of injuries, including aches and pains that occur as we age. If you are suffering a little pain that does not go away with rest and over-the-counter medication, that could indicate that something is wrong and should not be ignored. What may be a little pain now can lead to something much more severe later, which can significantly impact movement if not timely treated.
About Dr. Scott Tucker
Dr. Scott Tucker joined Jefferson Orthopedic in 2020. He is a fellowship-trained Sports Medicine Orthopedic Surgeon, having completed specialized training with one of the pioneers of Sports Medicine, Dr. James Andrews. Dr. Tucker treats all orthopedic injuries, with a special interest in sports injuries and degenerative conditions of the shoulder, elbow, and knee.
Dr. Tucker grew up in Old Saybrook, Connecticut and went to the Taft School and then Colby College in Maine. He spent two years working as a research assistant at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. After getting married, he and his wife moved to New Orleans where he attended Tulane Medical School. Dr. Tucker completed his orthopedic surgery residency at Tulane, followed by an orthopedic sports medicine fellowship at The Andrews Institute with the world-renown surgeon Dr. James Andrews, one of the premiere surgeons for professional and collegiate athletes. Dr. Tucker worked side-by-side with Dr. Andrews and focused on mastering arthroscopic techniques involving all types of shoulder, elbow, knee and ankle injuries, including Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction.