Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


Our daughter is a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy. During a boxing match, she dislocated her left shoulder. She is left-handed. She had surgery and now we are all waiting to see if she can stay in the Academy. Is there any way to predict the results of something like this? How often do people really get back to "normal" after this kind of injury?


There are many factors that affect the results of an injury of this kind. The severity of the injury, the type of operation done, the skill of the surgeon, and the healing powers of the young woman's body all play into the final result. Good nutrition in a non-smoker is also important in wound healing.

There aren't very many studies on this topic but there is one that may help answer your question. Back in the 1970s a group of U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen had surgery to repair an unstable anterior (forward) shoulder dislocation. At that time the operation was done with an open incision. The type of surgery done isn't used much anymore because newer and better ways have been found to reinforce an unstable shoulder joint.

The results were very good. All patients graduated from the Academy. They had to pass a rigorous physical exam including running, swimming, pull-ups, sit-ups, and other tests. Only one of the patients had to change his career choice from special warfare to aviation.

Long-term results were good but not 100 percent. About 14 percent were given a disability rating when they left active duty. Some of those had recurrent dislocations that required another operation.

Today, 30 years later your daughter will have the benefit of new, improved surgical and rehab methods. The chances of a full recovery are very good.

LCDR David T. Schroder, MD, MC USNR, et al. The Modified Bristow Procedure for Anterior Shoulder Instability. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. May 2006. Vol. 34. No. 5. Pp. 778-786.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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