What is a Bankart Lesion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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A Bankart lesion is an injury to the shoulder joint which leads to shoulder instability. This type of shoulder injury may also be referred to as a labral tear, because it is characterized by a tearing in the labrum, a ring of cartilage which stabilizes the bone of the upper arm where it articulates with the shoulder. Bankart lesions are especially common in younger patients and they can be caused by a number of different things.

In a patient with a Bankart lesion, the shoulder is extremely painful and the joint feels unstable. The patient may experience recurrent dislocations of the shoulder as a result of the lesion, and the shoulder can feel loose or slippery. Other injuries may also be present in the joint, depending on what caused the lesion.

The most common reason to develop a Bankart lesion is a shoulder dislocation. When the shoulder is pushed too far forward and down, it can tear the cartilage in the joint as it dislocates. Another reason for this type of injury to occur is a repetitive movement of the shoulder such as that seen among baseball pitchers.

Medical imaging studies can be used to visualize the shoulder joint to determine whether or not a Bankart lesion has occurred. The patient may also be physically examined and interviewed to learn more about the symptoms being experienced. Once a doctor diagnoses this injury, there are two treatment options.


The first option is conservative treatment in which the shoulder is rested and strain is reduced to allow the shoulder to heal. It is usually supported in a sling while the patient is offered antiinflammatory medications for pain and inflammation. With sufficient rest, sometimes the cartilage is able to repair itself and the tear will resolve.

More commonly, patients require surgery to correct the tear. The surgery is performed by a surgeon who specializes in joint repair and may even focus on treatment of problems with the shoulder joint. After surgery, the patient will need to wear a sling and observe the aftercare instructions to reduce the risk of reinjury.

Whichever treatment approach is used, once the Bankart lesion is repaired, the patient is usually encouraged to undergo physical therapy. Bankart lesion rehabilitation will strengthen the shoulder joint so that the patient is less likely to experience injury in the future. It can also help resolve pain and stiffness in the joint which often develops after a period of prolonged disuse.


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