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Shoulder Contusion

A shoulder contusion, or bruising of the shoulder muscle, is a mild sports injury that can occur due to a direct blow or a fall. The muscle may be stretched -- though it doesn’t tear -- and you may have visible bruising just below the skin as well as deeper bruising. While a shoulder contusion is uncomfortable and may temporarily make it difficult to move your arm normally, it’s an injury that typically resolves quickly.

Shoulder Contusion Hero Image 2

A shoulder contusion, or bruising of the shoulder muscle, is a mild sports injury that can occur due to a direct blow or a fall. The muscle may be stretched — though it doesn’t tear — and you may have visible bruising just below the skin as well as deeper bruising. While a shoulder contusion is uncomfortable and may temporarily make it difficult to move your arm normally, it’s an injury that typically resolves quickly.

What causes Shoulder Contusion?

A shoulder contusion usually results from a fall or a direct blow to the shoulder. Any blunt trauma with sufficient force to propel its energy into the muscle can cause a contusion. Contusions are often the result of sports-related injuries. Shoulder contusions are common in these sports:

 

  • Football
  • Rugby
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer
  • Baseball
  • Basketball

Symptoms

If you have a shoulder contusion, you may have these symptoms:

  • Pain around the shoulder joint
  • Ecchymoses, or ‘black and blue’ bruising or redness
  • Swelling around the shoulder

 

If you have a shoulder contusion you are usually able to raise your arm, but with difficulty.

When to see a doctor

Although a shoulder contusion doesn’t usually require medical treatment, you may need to see your doctor to make sure that you don’t have a more serious injury. Make an appointment if you fall on your shoulder and have swelling and pain that get worse instead of better, have a lot of bruising on your shoulder, or have trouble moving your arm or hand. Your doctor will ask you about your injury and your symptoms and examine your arm. In order to rule out another injury, your doctor may order an  x-ray or MRI to get a better look at the bones and soft tissues of your shoulder.

Non-operative treatment

Shoulder contusions are always treated nonoperatively. Conservative treatments include:

  • Rest, including taking a break from play and avoiding heavy lifting
  • Using a sling to rest your shoulder, if recommended by your doctor
  • Icing your shoulder (every one to two hours for 20 minutes) – The general recommendation is to avoid heat during the first 24-48 hours to avoid increasing the extent of bleeding and swelling.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, if needed.
  • Severe contusions are often treated by a Physical Therapist or an Athletic Trainer. They are often the best people to advise you on when it is safe to return to your sport.

Here are some exercises you can do at home

Shoulder Contusion

Recovery

After a shoulder contusion, you may be able to restart normal activities after just a few days, though more severe contusions may require several weeks of resting your shoulder. You should start stretching exercises within a few days of your injury and progress to strengthening and weight-bearing shoulder exercises, under the guidance of your doctor or physical therapist. You can return to play once you’ve regained your full range of motion and strength in the shoulder.

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