Can Love shoulder a championship load?

Kevin Love took to Twitter to inform us of his disgust following his clash on the boards with Kelly Olynyk.  It appeared the Celtics big pulled at Love’s shoulder. He is obviously disappointed with the scenario, with a vague diagnosis of ‘dislocated shoulder’.

Dislocated shoulders can be simple injuries, where a relocation happens shortly after the event and minimal further consequences result. Unfortunately for Kevin Love, these usually occur in recurrent dislocators, where the ligaments are already too loose and the labrum (the shoulders cartilage support) is doing an poor job at providing suction and stabilisation, generally due to a previous tear.

This incident was however traumatic, a physical blow, that twisted Kevin Love’s arm into a position no shoulder wants to go. The ball of the humeral head can no longer stay congruent and pops out of the socket, overstretching significant ligaments of the shoulder and often tearing the labrum. At times bony damage to the ball or socket of the joint can occur.

The shoulder joint is complex to manage due to its multi-directional nature. If the individual does not have sufficient shoulder control with movement from muscular structures (rotator cuff muscles), it relies heavily on the passive stabilising structures (bone, ligament and cartilage).  These are frequently injured, causing a complex scenario where rehabilitation is imperative. The challenge is to provide sufficient muscle control at the shoulder to maintain optimal humeral head position. Failure to do so results in inflammation at the shoulder joint due to instability and excessive translation of the ball in the socket.

The saving grace for Love and the Cavs is they swept Boston and have a week to recover. A large percentage of people suffer from loose shoulders (with structural damage) and manage just fine. Most ultrasound findings will show bursal thickening or inflammation from poor scapular control. Tennis players are rumoured to have complete tears of labral structures but play pain free due to the quality of their rotator cuff control. The question will be how much preventative shoulder control Kevin Love has put in with the Cavs Athletic Training and Strength and Conditioning team?

Peering down the barrel of a championship run, their time is now and it is not practical to send Kevin Love for a shoulder reconstruction or stabilising surgery – sparing any bony damage. They will likely manage his inflammation and pain with cortisone needles and start him on the most basic of exercises and

strap to support the shoulder. This should be sufficient time for the insult of injury to settle, but with repeated use of an unstable shoulder girdle, expect him to suffer flare-ups in the not too distant future.

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