We have studied 105 patients with 107 acute, primary, dislocations of the glenohumeral joint seen between January 1, 1991 and July 1, 1994. The mean time of follow-up was 71 months (46 to 91). In 34% the injury occurred during a sports activity and in 28% at home. The bias toward sport was even greater in patients less than 40 years of age, and in men. In patients older than 40 years of age, and in women, the dislocation occurred more often at home. The overall probability of recurrence within four years was 26%. Age was the most significant prognostic factor in recurrence which took place in 64% of patients less than 20 years of age and in 6% of those older than 40 years. Statistically, there was no difference between the rates of recurrence in patients who were active in sport and those who were not. The mean Rowe score for the whole group was 87 (15 to 100). Associated fractures were found in 20 patients (19%) and nerve injuries in 22 (21%). None of those in whom a fracture of the greater tuberosity was seen subsequently suffered a recurrent dislocation. At follow-up we found that 36 patients (34%) had not returned to their former employment but in only 2% was this owing to the injured shoulder.