NFL Injury Report: Jake Locker’s Shoulder Injury

Each week, RulingSports.com will analyze one NFL player’s injury.  Sports Medicine doctor, Dr. Mandy Huggins (Twitter:  @HugginsMD), will provide medical analysis of the injury.  Alicia Jessop will then break down some of the contract ramifications of the injury.

Dr. Mandy Huggins’ Medical Analysis

In week 1 against the Patriots, Titans QB Jake Locker dislocated his left shoulder after attempting to make a tackle. In week 4 against the Texans, Locker went down again with yet another left shoulder injury. According to NFL.com, he sustained the same injury, a dislocation. Fortunately for Locker, his left arm is his non-throwing arm, so there is a good chance that this won’t need immediate attention. However, it is yet to be determined if he’ll be back in time for next weekend’s game against the Vikings.

To put this injury in simple terms, let’s think of the shoulder as a “ball and socket” joint. The top of the arm, or the humeral head, is the “ball” while the “socket” is a bone called the glenoid. The glenoid is actually part of the scapula, or shoulder blade. When imagining the “socket,” think of a golf tee because that’s how shallow it is. There are many ligaments, tendons, muscles, and a capsule around the joint to keep it from slipping out of place. However, with trauma, the shoulder can dislocate, or “pop out,” as people like to say. If little time passes between the dislocation and evaluation by the medical team, the shoulder can usually be reduced, or put back into place, as was the case with Locker after he left the field Sunday.  It’s not a pain-free procedure.

Although dislocations can be reduced, it is important to remember that damage can occur to associated structures. These include fractures of the humeral head (arm bone) or the glenoid. It is also possible to sustain a tear of the labrum, which is a piece of cartilage that lies on the “socket” side of the joint. The need for surgery usually depends upon these associated injuries after a dislocation or recurrent dislocations. The younger the patient, the more likely the shoulder is to dislocate again, and instability ensues. Depending upon how bad Locker’s symptoms are, and whether or not he’s experiencing significant instability in the shoulder, he may or may not need surgical intervention sooner versus later. That definitely would not be the case if we were discussing his throwing shoulder, so in that regard, he’s lucky.

Alicia Jessop’s Contract Analysis

As Dr. Huggins pointed out, Locker is incredibly lucky that his throwing shoulder was not injured.  However, it is disconcerting that he has now injured the same shoulder twice in one season.  Given that his non-throwing shoulder was injured, it is unlikely that this injury will have any serious contract ramifications in the near future, so long as he makes a full recovery.  However, it is possible that future contracts may include an injury exception for injuries sustained by Locker to his left shoulder.  If such an exception is placed in Locker’s contracts going forward, if he were to sustain an injury to the left shoulder that prevents him from playing, he would not receive his salary for those games.  Given that he has now injured the same shoulder twice in one season, it is likely that teams will demand this waiver from Locker going forward.

Mandy Huggins, MD is a board certified sports medicine physician. She blogs regularly at http://www.drmandyhuggins.com.

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