14 Common Causes of Labrum Tear

There are a total of three bones in your shoulder. The clavicle, humerus, and scapula. They all serve their own essential role in keeping your shoulder in place. The ball and socket fit together snuggly so that your arm stays attached to your torso because a dislocation isn’t very fun as most athletes can tell you. The labrum, however, isn’t a bone.

Rather, it’s soft tissue that your body uses to bind the humerus and the scapula. Think of it as a rubber seal that’s used to keep both bones together. If you tear your labrum then you might notice a variety of symptoms. Some of these include a sudden loss of strength in your arm. You could also notice a limitation in your range of motion along with a clicking sound. Today we’re going to go over eight of the most common causes of a labrum tear.

1. Weightlifting

Repetitive overhead motions are one of the main causes of labrum tears. That being the case, weightlifters are at a high risk of this seeing as they perform the same motions every day, and while carrying a heavyweight at that. In fact, labrum tears are one of the most common injuries that put weightlifters on the recovery bench. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to prevent labrum tears while weightlifting.

The first thing you should do is stick to weights that you can actually handle. Don’t try to show off and lift a weight that’s way too heavy for you. Build your strength up then slowly increase the amount of weight you’re lifting. This will ensure that your labrum doesn’t suffer a tear which can put you out of action for quite a long time. Some studies have also shown that stretching before lifting weights can prevent tears.

2. Rowing

While it might seem surprising that a sport like rowing can lead to labrum tears, it’s actually fairly common. Bear in mind that we’re not referring to a casual kayak ride to see the sights, we’re talking about competitive rowing in the racing context. These athletes are performing the same action again and again, without ever stopping to rest until the race is over.

As you can imagine, this constant stress on the shoulder coupled with repetitive motions can lead to labrum tears. The easiest way to counteract this is by doing more “push” exercises. Rowing is a pulling motion, so you need to balance it out with more push workouts. Push-ups, weightlifting, and the like will help you build your shoulder strength both ways so that you don’t end up tearing your labrum while in the middle of rowing competitions.

3. Baseball players

Many baseball players suffer from labrum tears. You might think that this is an issue targeted towards sluggers who swing their bat at warp speed, but it’s actually more of a pitcher problem. You see, most shoulder injuries occur with overhead motions. Sluggers swing their bats to the side rather than above their head thus they aren’t as susceptible to these types of injuries. In contrast, pitchers always use overhead motions when they throw the ball.

They also tend to fling it at very fast speeds, using their arm as a catapult. All this repetitive overhead motion can weaken the labrum tissue in their shoulder joint until eventually, after one big throw, it tears. It takes around four to six weeks for a labrum tear to heal, but it can sometimes be a career-ender if their shoulder — or mindset — never gets back to 100%.

4. Age

Beyond sports, another risk factor that could boost your odds of suffering from a labrum tear is age. As you get older, the bones, muscles, and tissue in your body gradually get weaker. Of course, this can be offset by proper dieting and regular exercise but it will still progress, just at a slower pace. Your labrum is no exception to aging and thus will weaken as you age.

Those who are above the age of 40 have a significantly higher risk of suffering from a labrum tear according to multiple studies. Think of your labrum like a baseball bat — keeping in line with the previous section — that you keep swinging for decades on a daily basis.

Eventually, the wear and tear on the bat will become too much and it’ll snap. The same thing applies to your labrum. It could be tomorrow, next year, or in a decade, but it’s bound to happen sometime.

5. Falls

When you fall down, your body immediately goes into instinct mode to try to minimize damage and prevent death. The first thing your brain will default to is the extension of your arm. This is done in an effort to break the fall and protect your vital organs — as well as your head. While this is actually a pretty effective defense and thus base instinct, it can lead to various injuries.

Colles fractures are common in falls because patients land on their wrist when the brain automatically extends the arm. You might also suffer from a labrum tear as an outstretched arm will be more vulnerable to shoulder injuries. The extension of your arm during falls is like an airbag in many ways. It’s designed to keep you safe but can also injure you in some cases. A double-edged sword some might say.

6. Car crashes

When you get into a car crash, a large amount of force is put on your entire body. That being said, your upper body, in particular, tends to get the brunt of it. If you didn’t impact your head on the steering wheel and die from a cerebral hemorrhage then you should already be grateful, but you might still notice a clicking in your shoulder. Yes, labrum tears are found in many car crash victims.

There are some cases where it’s not the initial impact that tears that labrum but rather the aftershocks as your car rolls. The instinct of some drivers when they’re rolling is to raise their arms overhead, press against the ceiling of their car, and try to stabilize themselves. This is actually an effective way to protect your head and minimize damage, but it also leaves your labrum very exposed.

7. Blunt trauma

So far we’ve covered risk factors, sporting injuries, and accidents such as falls or car crashes. That being said, there are also more, let’s say, direct ways that you could tear your labrum. If you get into a fight and suffer a blow to your shoulder then the soft tissue of your labrum could be torn as a result. This is especially true if your opponent is using a blunt weapon.

While blades can also tear the labrum, this is less common seeing as it’d have to slice at the exact spot where the labrum sits between your humerus and scapula. In contrast, a weapon like a baseball bat could cause a shockwave of damage to a large area of your shoulder. The shoulder is a surprisingly common target for blunt attacks, thus many street fights end with labrum tears along with the usual set of broken ribs.

8. Necrotizing fasciitis

Necrotizing fasciitis is a flesh-eating bacteria that causes the premature death of the various soft tissues in your body such as skin. The labrum, as we mentioned, is soft tissue and thus if you’re suffering from necrotizing fasciitis then it will gradually get thinner. Eventually, when the tissue of the labrum becomes too thin and weak it will suffer a tear. That being said, a labrum tear is the least of your worries if you’re suffering from necrotizing fasciitis.

There are many cases of necrotizing fasciitis in which entire limbs have to be amputated just to save the patient’s life. That being said, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from such amputations. The first thing you should do is head to the nearest ER immediately if you feel dizzy after suffering a cut. Nipping the problem at the bud is the best way to minimize damage.

9 Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) and Marfan

Connective tissue disorders are being reported and diagnosed at an increased rate thanks to genetic testing for the condition and resources for doctors being more readily available in this decade than any other before. 

Most connective tissue disorders are born with (and most inherited) instead of developed, and a lot of them can share the same symptoms.

These conditions include several different types of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (also known as EDS) and Marfan, and associated symptoms include the weakening of connective tissue, malabsorption, heart problems and other conditions that affect organs composed of connective tissue, which is almost everything in the body.

Because of weakened connective tissue, you are more likely to develop a labrum tear even during simple daily activities.

If you suspect a connective tissue disorder in your family, make an appointment with your doctor for the proper testing.

10 Using a Cane or Wheelchair

Labrum tears are common where there is any kind of repeated motion for the shoulder that forces it into enough strain to tear. This can sometimes be associated with serious injuries like car accidents, but it can also be something that happens over a long period of time through different activities. 

Using a cane or wheelchair is often necessary for the long term for many people who have either difficulty to walk or the complete inability to get around unaided. This seems like a great idea, but it can also be associated with a range of different health problems that come with long-term strain. 

Some of these injuries can include a labrum tear due to the extreme strain placed on the shoulders. Working to strengthen muscles over a long period of time is one way to help the process along and reduce the risk of this type of injury happening to you. 

11 As a Repetitive Strain Injury

Repetitive strain is something that happens over a long period of time, and it’s usually something that’s associated with careers where a lot of heavy lifting and moving things around is required – although any type of career that places additional pressure on your shoulder can put you at risk. 

Labrum tears are common in cases where a previous injury has already happened and gets injured again: The first time the injury might have only been a stretch or sprain, but the further injury causes the tear – and can put you out of action for more than the healing period of the first injury. 

If you experience labrum tears as a repetitive strain injury, there will usually be signs of pain and discomfort before the tear itself takes place. This is one reason why any signs of pain will mean that you should see your doctor for proper treatment sooner rather than later. 

12 Guitar Playing 

It would be fair to say that almost every career that you could imagine has its own type of strain injuries associated with it. If you spend a lot of time in front your computer as a journalist, writer or graphic design professional, you’re likely to experience eye strain, headaches and back pain as symptoms – and arthritis is also a common injury related to these careers. 

It’s the same way for studio and live musicians. In the same way, many injuries and conditions are more likely to happen to long-term guitar players. Famous guitarist Kurt Cobain might have caused the curve in his spine by playing guitar left-handed – and there is more research out there supporting this theory today.  

Lifting and carrying a heavy guitar during gigs for years can be a potential cause for a labrum tear, particularly where the shoulder has already been injured before this. Take precautions, or switch to a lighter guitar and sit-down gigs for a while. 

13 Lifting Something Heavy 

It should be said that professional weight-lifters aren’t the only people who lift heavy things. There are a variety of careers where heavy lifting is just part of the job description and even if you don’t do it for a living, someone might still stop you and ask, “Hey, can you help me lift this?” and before you know it, you’ve stretched or torn something. 

There are a thousand possible scenarios that could be suggested where you might need to lift something heavy. Without having to, it’s easy to get the picture. The heavy lifting of any sort can put you at an increased risk of a labrum tear (and general tearing or stretching of the muscles in many other parts of the body subjected to strain when you lift something.

Stop what you’re doing and see your doctor if you should suspect that a tear or other injury has taken place. 

14 Gunshot Injuries

Gunshot injuries might not be ones that people think of as common ones, but they happen at a rate of a few thousand every year in the United States – and not always in the ways that you might have imagined. 

A great deal of gunshot wound instances reported to the emergency room are accidents. Guns should be handled with care, although often aren’t, which can lead to guns accidentally going off when they aren’t meant to, like forgetting to empty out the magazine and chamber before cleaning – or dropping a firearm. 

Where conditions like these aren’t accidental in this way, they can happen during physical confrontations, and sometimes during crossfires.

Gunshot injuries are especially common ones to the shoulder, where it can cause a labrum tear and the potential of several decades of pain and stiffness experienced in the affected joint. The application of heat is one way to help take care of such an injury.

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