Evidence-based rehabilitation of athletes with glenohumeral instability



To give an overview of current knowledge and guidelines with respect to evidence-based rehabilitation of athletes with glenohumeral instability.


This narrative review combines scientific evidence with clinical guidelines based on the current literature to highlight the different components of the rehabilitation of glenohumeral instability.


Depending on the specific characteristics of the instability pattern, the severity, recurrence, and direction, the therapeutic approach may be adapted to the needs and demands of the athlete. In general, attention should go to (1) restoration of rotator cuff strength and inter-muscular balance, focusing on the eccentric capacity of the external rotators, (2) normalization of rotational range of motion with special attention to the internal rotation ROM, (3) optimization of the flexibility and muscle performance of the scapular muscles, and (4) gradually increasing the functional sport-specific load on the shoulder girdle. The functional kinetic chain should be implemented throughout all stages of the rehabilitation program. Return to play should be based on subjective assessment as well as objective measurements of ROM, strength, and function.


This paper summarizes evidence-based guidelines for treatment of glenohumeral instability. These guidelines may assist the clinician in the prevention and rehabilitation of the overhead athlete.

Level of evidence

Expert opinion, Level V.

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Correspondence to Ann M. Cools.

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Cools, A.M., Borms, D., Castelein, B. et al. Evidence-based rehabilitation of athletes with glenohumeral instability. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc 24, 382–389 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00167-015-3940-x

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  • Shoulder instability
  • Rehabilitation
  • Exercise