The incidence and characteristics of shoulder instability at the United States Military Academy

Brett D. Owens, Michele L. Duffey, Bradley J. Nelson, Thomas M. DeBerardino, Dean C. Taylor, Sally B. Mountcastle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

367 Scopus citations


Background: The literature provides little information detailing the incidence of traumatic shoulder instability in young, healthy athletes. Hypothesis: Shoulder instability is common in young athletes. Study Design: Descriptive epidemiologic study. Methods: We prospectively captured all traumatic shoulder instability events at the United States Military Academy between September 1, 2004, and May 31, 2005. Throughout this period, all new traumatic shoulder instability events were evaluated with physical examination, plain radiographs, and magnetic resonance imaging. Instability events were classified according to direction, chronicity, and type (subluxation or dislocation). Subject demographics, mechanism of injury, and sport were evaluated. Results: Among 4141 students, 117 experienced new traumatic shoulder instability events during the study period; 11 experienced multiple events. The mean age of these 117 subjects was 20.0 years; 101 students were men (86.3%), and 16 were women (13.7%). The 1-year incidence proportion was 2.8%. The male incidence proportion was 2.9% and the female incidence proportion was 2.5%. Eighteen events were dislocations (15.4%), and 99 were subluxations (84.6%). Of the 99 subluxations, 45 (45.5%) were primary events, while 54 (54.5%) were recurrent. Of the 18 dislocations, 12 (66.7%) were primary events, while 6 (33.3%) were recurrent. The majority of the 117 events were anterior in nature (80.3%), while 12 (10.3%) were posterior, and 11 (9.4%) were multidirectional. Forty-four percent (43.6%) of the instability events experienced were as a result of contact injuries, while 41.0% were a result of noncontact injuries, including 9 subluxations caused by missed punches during boxing; information was unavailable for the remaining 15%. Conclusion: Glenohumeral instability is a common injury in this population, with subluxations comprising 85% of instability events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1168-1173
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Dislocation
  • Epidemiology
  • Incidence
  • Instability
  • Mechanism
  • Shoulder
  • Subluxation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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