Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics

Young Athletes and Shoulder Pain – When to See an Orthopaedic Surgeon


The shoulder is an extremely complex joint comprised of numerous bones, tendons, and muscles which all must work together to allow proper range of motion. This level of joint complexity makes the shoulder highly susceptible to injury, especially in youth sports that necessitate body contact or overarm throwing.

Shoulder pain usually involves the soft tissues of the shoulder (muscles, ligaments and tendons). These can become strained or damaged with overuse, causing tendonitis or bursitis. They can also be damaged by a traumatic injury such as a dislocated shoulder or hard impact with another player or the ground that causes a tear but not a dislocation.  

Shoulder pain may be constant, or intermittent. Often a child will not complain of pain until they use the arm in question during return to play, such as when they need to throw a baseball or football. In other cases, symptoms may appear at home when they try to reach for something on a high shelf, to scratch their back by reaching over their shoulder, or up behind their waist.

If the pain is more of a dull ache than a sharp pain, there is no dislocation or major swelling, and your child has relief with normal over the counter medications and icing of the shoulder, you may wait a day or two to see if their injury resolves.

If there is major redness, bruising, and / or swelling, the joint appears to be partly or completely out of place, the pain doesn’t go away over a 2-3 day period, or your child is unable to rest or sleep due to pain, you should seek the advice of an orthopaedist.  

Dr. Strasburger will perform a detailed physical exam to check range of motion, determine pain levels, and look for any abnormalities, swelling, deformities, and tender areas in the shoulder. If needed, he may order an X-ray or MRI to further evaluate your child’s injury.

In many cases, physical therapy may help resolve the issue. In others, a minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery can be performed to repair damage done to the interior of the shoulder. Dr. Strasburger strives to find the least invasive option that will deliver maximum range of motion and allow young athletes to return to the activities they love.  

Ask Dr. Strasburger about alternative and complementary therapies that can help your child recover fully and remain pain free!