Overhead Athlete Injury Prevention

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… So why am I getting hurt?

Welcome back, nerds. This blog will focus on athletes that do an overhead (throwing) motion, which include (but are not limited to) baseball, softball, soccer goalkeepers, football quarterbacks, and cricket players. These sports were specifically called out because they often “short arm” their throwing motion – which means they don’t use the full range of motion to accomplish the task. When the full range of motion isn’t used, muscles are forced to fire harder and quicker. Mix that with fatigue from overuse, and it’s the perfect formula for injuries to occur. Those injuries mostly happen during the deceleration/eccentric part of the motion, after the object is released from the hand. That’s why you rarely see swimmers, javelin throwers, volleyball players, and tennis players with shoulder injuries from overhead movement muscle tears because they typically follow through with their overhead motions and don’t quickly decelerate their arm. So, your take home from all of this is to not short-arm throws, especially if you haven’t warmed up or if your shoulder is already fatigued.

What problems go with which signs?

Focusing on the red, yellow, and green light principle, from the previous blog, we’ll take a look at signs to pay attention to and what should be done if they pop up. As always, if it is an emergency situation immediately call 9-1-1 and get the injured to an emergency room as soon as possible.

 RED signs →  pain, instability, numbness/tingling, a catching sensation at one certain spot through range of motion.

 YELLOW signs → painful clicking/popping/pinching, irregular movement, loss of range of motion

 GREEN signs → soreness, tightness, achy pain

How can I prevent one of these signs?

Once your shoulder is healthy, or in the green, you can perform a few exercises to prevent common injuries.

1) Eccentric Throwing Deceleration – anchor a theraband to something at nipple height and face where it is anchored the entire time through this exercise. Hold the band at waist level in throwing hand, step back until just before there is tension. Cock your arm back as though you were about to throw, take a hopping step back with same leg holding the band ending in a good, opened, throwing stance (non-throwing shoulder closest to anchor point). Now slowly go through your throwing motion, including the arm follow through and trail leg follow through. You’ll know you’re doing it right because the back of your shoulder blade will be tired after about 8 of these. Only do 2 sets of 8 and do them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

2) Towel Follow-throughs – find a tube sock and throw a ball in it. Grabbing the tube sock by the open end go through the entire throwing motion, starting at about 50%, but never release the sock. After 5-10 reps, slowly ramp the intensity, stopping at no more than 90%. Don’t forget to follow through with the arms and legs, and feel free to let the ball hit the ground outside of your planting leg so you know you’re following through and in the correct plane of motion. Do this as part of every warm up before you play. It should take less than 3 min.

3) Side Plank Battles – grab a partner and set a timer for 30 seconds (ramp up time as needed). Both you and your partner side plank about 6-7 feet apart, face to face, each grab one end of a theraband with the free hand, then cock back in a throwing position. Each of you try and go in and out of the throwing motion and knock the other off balance. The game is to stay in the plank position without being knocked over. The player who falls over the least, wins. Adjust the distance between you two as needed, and make sure you do the same on your other arm.

What if I want sport specific injury prevention advice?

Keep checking the blog out, you nerd. Week to week I will cover a different kind of motion or sport, and the common injuries that occur with them and how to prevent them. Next week I’ll cover field sport athletes that involve cutting and juking motions.

Fun Fact: 17 muscles attach to the shoulder blade – a good mnemonic is SSS TTTT BRR COLD LIP