Fear and shoulder dislocations

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Recently, we undertook some research where we measured fear of re-injury in people who had just had their first anterior shoulder dislocation. Understandably, people who had a first shoulder dislocation had higher levels of fear than healthy people. However, the amount of fear that a person felt, was not related to the presence of a fracture, or nerve palsy.

We followed these research participants who had a first shoulder dislocation for 1 year, and found that people who had high levels of fear of re-injury were more likely to have another episode of shoulder instability. This is contrary to what we were expecting to find. It may be that people who are protective and fearful of their shoulder, actually place themselves at more risk of further injury – perhaps because they lack preparatory muscle activation which could protect their shoulder.

We tracked their levels of fear over time (see the graph above), and found that as a group of people, the level of fear did not change that much. This mirrors what we see in the clinic, where I have met people 10-20 years after their shoulder dislocation, who are still fearful of further injury.


If fear of re-injury is limiting your lifestyle, give us a call at Auckland Shoulder Clinic on 09-3666457



Dr Margie Olds

Dr Margie Olds is a internationally renowned physiotherapist with a special interest in shoulder injuries. She developed the Flawless Motion braces to help people get back into sport as quickly and safely as possible. Her PhD is on predicting shoulder dislocations after injury

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