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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 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 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 on the shoulder. 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
• Swelling around the shoulder

Athletes with a shoulder contusion are usually able to raise their 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 non-operatively. 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)
• Over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, if needed

You can also try these exercises at home to stretch your shoulder and maintain your range of motion:

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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