Fig1. This shows the anatomy of the shoulder joint, including the articular cartilage.
Fig 2. This is a histology slide of hyaline cartilage tissue.
Fig 3. Weightlifting or other overhead sports can increase the risk of a cartilage tear.
What is Articular Cartilage? And How is it Torn?
Articular cartilage is a type of connective tissue on the ends of long bones. It facilitates movement, making it easier for bones to slide past each other at the joint. The cartilage can be torn from acute trauma like a dislocation, or as a result of wear and tear over time. It can also be injured following certain issues like osteochondritis, which occurs when decreased blood flow to a bone under cartilage causes part of the bone to die, causing both the bone and cartilage to crack and break off.
Do I have this condition? And how is it treated?
You may have a cartilage tear if you experience pain lifting the arm over the head, weakness, a decreased range of motion, night pain, or a clicking or grinding sensation at the shoulder joint. To treat this injury, rest the shoulder, and try physical therapy or over the counter pain medications. If pain persists, steroid injections or surgery are possibilities.
One surgical procedure for this issue is arthroscopic debridement, where a surgeon will employ small incisions and a camera to clear the joint of damaged tissue. Surgeons can also opt to repair the cartilage, or perform a shoulder replacement if the injury is severe enough.
Who gets it? And how do I prevent it?
Though cartilage tears can be difficult to predict, aspects of prevention are in the patient’s control. A family history of arthritis or cartilage problems, a shoulder dislocation, weightlifting and other overhead sports, and occupations with overhead lifting can put one at risk for a cartilage tear. Avoiding repetitive overhead movements and heavy lifting, or using proper form during these movements can help decrease the risk of a cartilage tear. Stretching and warming up before exercise and practicing good posture can help prevent this condition.
Attribution for Images
1. OpenStax College. “Shoulder Joint”. Wikimedia Commons, 19 May 2013, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:914_Shoulder_Joint.jpg.
2. Echinaceapallida. “Cartilage hyaline1”. Wikimedia Commons, 3 June 2008, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cartilage_hyaline1.jpg
3. Sandro Halank. “2018-10-11 Snatch (Weightlifting Girls' 58kg) at 2018 Summer Youth Olympics by Sandro Halank”. Wikimedia Commons, 11 October 2018, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:2018-10-11_Snatch_(Weightlifting_Girls%27_58kg)_at_2018_Summer_Youth_Olympics_by_Sandro_Halank%E2%80%93118.jpg.