By Lori Melton
Summer is coming and that means it’s time to gear up for a variety of fun outdoor sports. Unfortunately, sports that require a lot of overhead and overhand arm rotation— like swimming, golf, volleyball and baseball—can cause shoulder injuries. Check out these tips for things you can do to help play it safe and help prevent shoulder injuries.
Shoulder joints and muscles can get taxed from repetitive motion in swim strokes. The rotator cuff muscles help raise and rotate the arm. Therefore, they can get irritated, fatigued and injured with overuse. It’s a good idea to strengthen shoulder and upper back muscles via a general exercise program in conjunction with swimming. A doctor or sports medicine professional can help you develop a safe exercise program that is tailored for the type of swimming you’ll do.
Per the American Academy of Orthopadic Surgeons (AAOS), it’s a good idea to do some general warm-up exercises before you start to swim. Things like running or walking in place for five to 10 minutes, doing walking lunges, standing T’s and jumping jacks are great warm-up exercises. Gently stretching your arms and shoulders (with a 30 second hold each) before hopping into the pool.
Several parts of the shoulder are at risk while golfers are perfecting their swing. Rotator cuff injuries and torn cartilage (or a labral tear) are two common problems. Again, doing general exercises that help strengthen shoulder muscles is good practice. Also, doing a series of stretches for your back, shoulders and legs before golfing helps prevent injury. Mayo Clinic has some great golf stretches on its website.
Volleyball is a fast-paced sport that requires a lot of power and shoulder involvement in serving, spiking, setting and blocking. Players are at risk for rotator cuff tears, dislocation, and AC joint separation. Proper training and exercise is a key part of preventing injuries. A blend of shoulder-focused exercises and stretches will help prevent injuries and work to condition the player for optimal performance. Mayo Clinic gives an excellent example of doing a proper shoulder stretch here.
Baseball players, especially pitchers, are prone to all sorts of shoulder injuries from the frequent motion of throwing and catching the ball. The labral tissue around the shoulder joint can get torn, as well as rotator cuff injuries. Per AAOS, the number of pitches thrown and the types of pitches thrown should be limited according to age for youth baseball. Also, doing warm-up exercises like running for five to 10 minutes and light calisthenics are good before game play. Establishing a regular exercise routine that incorporates shoulder strengthening is good. Doing shoulder stretches before game play is also recommended.
It is very important to seek medical attention immediately if you experience shoulder pain or any type of slipping, popping or pinching that persists. Don’t play through the pain. Get it checked out and follow doctor’s orders as to proper rest and treatment. Finally, be sure to get clearance from your doctor before actively returning to your sport.