A broken shoulder ball is a term used to describe a fracture of the upper end of the humerus bone, which is located inside the shoulder joint. Also called proximal humerus fractures, breaks in this area can occur just below the ball at the proximal neck as well as within the ball itself. Recovery from a broken shoulder ball varies with the severity of the injury.
Degrees of Fracture
According to Duke University's Wheeless' "Textbook of Orthopaedics," shoulder ball fractures fall in three general categories. If you suffer a stable fracture, your shoulder ball will not be displaced from its original position. Typically, if you experience this type of injury, you will be able to move your shoulder with minimal pain and no unusual movement between your shoulder ball and the rest of your humerus. If you suffer a minimally displaced fracture, your shoulder ball will be moved out of place to a small degree. Typically, this sort of injury will cause you greater pain and more restriction in your normal movement. If you suffer a displaced fracture, your shoulder ball will be moved more than 10 millimeters from its normal position, or sit at an angle greater than usual. Depending on the severity of your injury, your shoulder ball may be broken in as many as four fragments. In some cases, these fragments may also be separated from each other in addition to the overall displacement.
Treating Non-Displaced Fractures
If your broken shoulder ball is not displaced, you will likely be treated through nonsurgical options. The primary method used in this case is immobilization of your shoulder through use of a sling or specialized immobilization device. Keeping your shoulder still will allow it time to heal, and will significantly decrease the chances of fragment displacement after the original injury. Your doctor may also prescribe cold treatments and painkillers during this period. After healing has advanced sufficiently, your doctor will likely recommend physical therapy to reduce stiffness in your shoulder and retain your strength and flexibility. Usually, therapy begins before your fracture is fully repaired.
Treating Displaced Fractures
If the fragments of your shoulder ball are minimally displaced, it may be possible to heal them with the same techniques and therapy used for non-displaced fractures. However, significantly displaced or separated fragments will almost certainly require surgical repair. Typically, your surgeon will reposition the pieces of your shoulder ball, then fix them in place with screws, pins, or plates. If your ball is severely fragmented or crushed, your surgeon may instead choose to perform a shoulder replacement. In this procedure, your damaged shoulder ball will be surgically removed and replaced with a synthetic substitute that is anchored in the remaining portion of your humerus shaft.
In the aftermath of surgery, your shoulder will be immobilized for a period of time to be determined by your doctors. You will then undergo physical therapy to restore your normal range of motion and diminish post-surgical stiffness. Depending on the severity of your injury, recovery may take several weeks to several months.