3 Risk Factors for Shoulder Dislocations

A shoulder dislocation—when the ball of your shoulder is forced out of its socket—is painful and usually requires medical assistance to pop it back into place.

Shoulder dislocations are one of several sports injuries that can affect the shoulder bones and their surrounding ligaments and muscles. See Shoulder Dislocation Injury (Dislocated Shoulder)

A dislocation can happen from a traumatic event, such as a hit during a hockey game, or the ligaments surrounding your shoulder joint are loose and stretched out.

See Causes and Risk Factors for a Dislocated Shoulder

Are you at risk for shoulder instability? Learn about your risk factors below.


1. Repeated shoulder stress

You may be at risk for a dislocated shoulder if you’re an athlete participating in repetitive, overhead sports, such as baseball, tennis, swimming, or volleyball. Even careers involving repetition, such as painting, or lifting objects overhead may cause this injury.

Repetitive, overhead movements can cause your shoulder muscles and ligaments to weaken, stretch, and/or tear over time. When this happens the shoulder joint is less stabilized, and the ball of your shoulder can move around and dislocate.

2. Traumatic events

Traumatic events in athletics or daily life can cause a shoulder dislocation. Examples include:

  • Participating in contact sports
  • Experiencing a seizure or electrocution
  • Falling off your bicycle or down the stairs

If you are a football offensive lineman, for example, you are susceptible to dislocation because of your shoulder placement when blocking. 1 Mahaffey BL, Smith PA. Shoulder Instability in Young Athletes. American Academy of Family Physicians. 1999. 15; 2773-2782. Found in Tibone JE, Bradley JP. The treatment of posterior subluxation in athletes. Clin Orthop. 1993: 291124–37. Other sports that pose the possibility of falling can put you at risk for a shoulder dislocation, including gymnastics or skiing downhill. 2 Dislocated shoulder. Mayo Clinic website. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dislocated-shoulder/basics/symptoms/con-20032590. August 16, 2014. Accessed October 10, 2016.

3. Genetics

You may have innately loose (lax) ligaments throughout your body, including your shoulder. Lax shoulder ligaments may not provide enough support to keep the ball of the shoulder in its socket. As a result, a dislocation can happen. If you have laxity in your joints, you may not experience symptoms associated with shoulder instability.

If a dislocated shoulder is suspected, experts recommend getting the injury diagnosed and treated to prevent long-term shoulder problems. Your risk for shoulder instability reduces with age, as activity levels decrease.

Learn more:

Dislocated Shoulder Symptoms

Diagnosing a Dislocated Shoulder

Amy Haddad is a former Veritas Health editor. She developed content and wrote blogs about sports injuries, risk factors, and treatment options.