Opinion varies as to the incidence of nerve lesions in anterior dislocation of the shoulder after low-velocity trauma. Most studies are retrospective or do not use EMG. We have investigated the incidence and the clinical consequences of nerve lesions in a prospective study by clinical and electrophysiological examination. Axonal loss was seen in 48% of 77 patients. The axillary nerve was most frequently involved (42%). Although recovery as judged by EMG and muscle strength was almost complete, function of the shoulder was significantly impaired in patients with lesions of the axillary and suprascapular nerves. Unfavourable prognostic factors are increasing age and the presence of a haematoma. It is not necessary to carry out EMG routinely; an adequate programme of physiotherapy is important. In patients with a severe paresis, EMG is essential after three weeks.