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To review the presentation, evaluation, treatment, and prognosis of various nerve injuries about the shoulder in the athletic population. Included are injuries to the axillary, suprascapular, musculocutaneous, long thoracic, and spinal accessory nerves.
This article represents a review of the literature regarding incidence, presentation, and results of treatment of these various nerve injuries. The clinically pertinent anatomy is also presented to better relate mechanism of injury to the occurrence of nerve injury. I searched MEDLINE from 1966 through 1999 and the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery from 1992 through 1999 for the key words “nerve” and “shoulder.”
A historical review of treatment results is presented as well as a review of treatment options and the results of studies using modern techniques in the management of nerve injuries.
Nerve injuries about the shoulder present as distinct clinical syndromes, although signs and symptoms can be subtle. The athletic trainer and team physician must be able to recognize the presentation of these injuries so that adequate evaluation and prompt treatment can be instituted to maximize the athlete's chance for early return to sport.