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Common Shoulder Injuries to Football Players

author image Jeremy Hoefs
Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing fitness, nutrition, outdoor and hunting articles in 2006. His articles have been published in "Star City Sports," "Hunting Fitness Magazine" and RutWear field journals, as well as on the Western Whitetail website. Hoefs graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.
Common Shoulder Injuries to Football Players
A football player running down the field. Photo Credit: Eugene_Onischenko/iStock/Getty Images

Football players wear a range of protective equipment but the nature of the sport makes them susceptible to injuries. For example, shoulder injuries are the fourth most common injury in American football players, according to "The American Journal of Sports Medicine.” As football players progress in ability levels, they run faster, hit harder and take more risks, making them even more susceptible to shoulder injuries.

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The types of shoulder injuries in football players vary, and are commonly related to the playing position. For example, quarterbacks are susceptible to shoulder tendinitis from the constant overhand throwing motion. The two most common types of shoulder injuries are a shoulder dislocation and a shoulder separation. Other common shoulder injuries include anterior instability, rotator cuff injury, sprains, strains, contusions and fractures.


Shoulder injuries typically occur from contact. The contact can come from another player as a result from a tackle, block or collision, along with an impact with the ground. Player-to-player contact accounts for about 58 percent of shoulder injuries while the ground causes about 22 percent. Another 20 percent of injuries come from overuse or training injuries.


Football players can take several preventative steps to lessen the chance of a shoulder injury. The first step is to wear properly-fitted equipment, specifically the shoulder pads. Fitting should occur after a pre-season health and wellness evaluation. After being fitted for protective equipment, use proper tackling and blocking technique. Following a sport-specific strength and conditioning program can improve the strength, stability and balance of the shoulder joint to prevent injuries.


Shoulder injuries range from mild to severe, with 44 percent of football players returning to full-contact play within one week. During the one week, players will use a combination of rest, ice and compression wraps to promote healing. Only 22 percent of the shoulder injuries required more than three weeks of rest and physical therapy with only 6 percent requiring surgery. One-third of collegiate football players, however, required surgery after a shoulder injury.

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