The shoulder is the most dynamic joint in the body. The shoulder joint is composed of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone), which are held together by muscles, tendons and ligaments. Due to the extreme mobility, the shoulder has high susceptibility to injury.

Athletic Injuries

It is commonly known that athletes suffer from shoulder, knee and elbow injuries more frequently than most individuals. The increased exposure of athletics and the increased forces that the body experiences during sports place athletes at higher risk for injury. Some sports activities result in overuse type injuries while other sports result in more acute, traumatic type injuries. Each has its own unique pattern of symptoms and clinical findings and thus its own necessary treatment. These specific clinical patterns are recognizable to experienced sub-specialists such as Dr. Millett and our team.

You can trust Dr. Millett and our team to make the proper diagnosis and to administer timely treatment so that you the athlete can return to your sport quickly and safely. If you should require surgery for your athletic injury, Dr. Millett typically uses advanced arthroscopic techniques and other minimally-invasive orthopedic treatments as they allow faster recovery and less scarring. There are also unique aspects to treating athletes such as the specific sport, the timing within the season, and the level of the athlete that we always consider in our decision-making process.

We have treated athletes from the NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB, PGA, X-Games, and the Olympics (see the News section). Our clinic is known throughout the world for our dedication, commitment, and experience in sports medicine. In addition to general sports medicine problems, Dr. Millett has a substantial expertise in treating shoulder injuries in throwers and shoulder injuries in contact athletes and has ongoing research in these areas. Furthermore, Dr. Millett and our team also have particular interest in the treatment and prevention of youth and adolescent sports injuries. We treat a large number of recreational and youth athletes, and while we can usually help these aspiring athletes to get back to their sporting activities, our ultimate goal is to reduce or perhaps even eliminate all sports injuries in this age group. Dr. Millett currently serves on the National Steering Committee to prevent youth sports injuries (, where he is actively engaged not only in research and education to prevent youth sports injuries but also in developing their winter sports injury prevention program.

Traumatic Injuries

Traumatic injuries are among the most common of all injury types. Most of us will at some point experience some type traumatic injury to our shoulder, knee, or elbow. Traumatic injuries can occur at any given time from sports, accidents, or falls. The types of traumatic events we routinely see include simple slips and falls such as those on the ice or snow, collisions from sports such as football or hockey, ski and snowboard crashes, bicycle wrecks, and motor vehicle accidents. Traumatic injuries can usually be placed into 3 distinct categories that includes (1) Broken bones (Fractures of the shoulder area), (2) Shoulder Dislocations, and (3) Soft tissue injuries. Some of the more common traumatic injury patterns that we see and treat include:

  1. Shoulder injuries such as dislocations where the ball pops out of the socket, separations (AC joint injury), collarbone (clavicle) fractures, proximal humerus fractures (upper arm bone), and rotator cuff tears;
  2. Elbow injuries such as biceps tears and ruptures
  3. Knee injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, knee cartilage (meniscal and chondral) tears, tibial plateau fractures (upper knee bone), and tibial shaft fractures.

These types of injuries always require skilled orthopaedic care and often require urgent or even emergent surgery to allow one to have a full functional recovery. Some of these injuries can be seen in the office; others will need to be evaluated more urgently in the emergency room. Having been actively involved in covering the on-call, emergent orthopaedic trauma in Boston and in Vail, Dr. Millett and our team have extensive experience treating fractures and other traumatic injuries and can care for the entire spectrum of orthopaedic injuries from those that are relatively minor to those that are life or limb threatening.

Arthritis and Degenerative Conditions

Joints can break down for a variety of reasons such as simply from your age with the wear and tear of daily use, from the overuse that occurs with sports or work, or from post-traumatic conditions where there was a specific injury to the joint. Arthritic and degenerative conditions therefore can affect any joint in the body, but we have particular experience with the the shoulder, knee, elbow, and hip. When arthritis occurs, your joints become inflamed and swollen, and your typical presenting symptoms will include pain, stiffness, swelling, and difficulty with routine activities such as walking, raising your arm, or sleeping. If one looks at the joint surfaces in arthritis, there is a loss of the normally smooth cartilage surface that covers the ends of the bones and lines the opposing joint surfaces. Loss of cartilage or cartilage breakdown, results in rough edges on the bearing surfaces of the joints, which leads to increased friction and more wear. Eventually you lose all the cartilage, and ‘bone on bone’ arthritis is the end result.

We do not simply treat the x-ray but will instead make recommendations that match you, your disease severity, and your lifestyle. The surgical options will either preserve your joint (joint preservation surgery) or replace the joint (joint replacement surgery or arthroplasty). Dr Millett has literally performed thousands of these types of joint procedures and has particular expertise in joint preservation surgery for the shoulder, knee, and elbow. One specific joint preserving technique, which Dr. Millett has pioneered, is called the CAM procedure for the shoulder. CAM stands for Comprehensive Arthroscopic Management, and it is a joint preserving option for those of you who are young, desire to be active, and yet have arthritis in your shoulder. When joint preserving surgery is no longer an option (due to severity of the disease, age or some other reason), total joint replacement may be an excellent option to alleviate pain and restore function. When joint replacement is needed, either part or all of the damaged joint surfaces can be replaced (partial or total joint replacement surgery), depending on the situation. Dr. Millett and our team routinely perform total joint joint replacement for the shoulder, knee, and hip. If joint replacement surgery is needed, Vail Valley Medical Center offers wonderful post-surgical care through our skilled nurses and experienced physical therapists for those of you who may need to undergo this type of treatment.

For more information on shoulder, knee and elbow injuries or for additional resources on sports related injuries, please contact sports medicine specialist Dr. Peter J. Millett  of Vail, CO.