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Shoulder Pain in Athletes

By Madhusudhan Tammisetti

Overhand throwing puts incredibly high stress on the shoulder, especially on the physiological structure that holds the shoulder stable. These high stresses are replicated several times among athletes who throw and may contribute to several injuries induced by overuse.

Throwing injuries in the shoulder more often occur in baseball pitchers. Shoulder injuries may occur in any person who engages in sports involving repeated overhand movements, such as tennis, volleyball, basketball, and certain track and field events.


Severe stress is imposed on the anatomical mechanisms that hold the humeral head, situated at the center of the glenoid socket, as athletes regularly throw at high speed.

In baseball players, the late cocking and follow-through phase puts tremendous stress on the shoulder when pitching. In the late cocking phase, the pitcher lifts the arm and hand up behind the body to generate speed. This extreme outer rotation arm posture enables the pitcher to generate speed on the ball, but it also pushes the humeral head forward, putting considerable stress on the front shoulder ligaments. The ligaments loosen with time, leading to higher external rotation and increased pitching speed but less flexibility on the shoulder.

In the follow-through phase, the arm swiftly rotates internally during acceleration. Follow-through starts after the ball is released, and rotator cuff tendons and the ligaments at the shoulder's back have to deal with significant stress to slow down the arm and stabilize the humeral head.

When structures such as the ligament system are weakened because of repetitive stress, other structures have to handle the overload. Consequently, the throwing athlete may experience several shoulder injuries.

The shoulder structures most prone to throwing injuries are the rotator cuff and labrum.

Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

When a tendon or muscle is overstretched, it may become inflamed. In throwers, irritation frequently occurs in the rotator cuff, which results in tendonitis.

Initial symptoms include pain that emanates from the shoulder's front to the arm side. Pain may persist when throwing, at rest, or doing other activates. As the problem persists, the athlete may experience pain at night and may see a decline in strength and motion.

Chiropractic Treatment

Your chiropractor may recommend you change your daily routine to avoid activities that may cause symptoms.

Ice packs may come in handy if there is any swelling. Swelling may be minimized by applying ice packs to the shoulder.

Your chiropractor may prescribe specific exercises to improve your shoulder's range of motion and strengthen the muscles, which support the joint. Physical therapy may help ligament tightness and muscles in the shoulder's back and further reinforce the shoulder's front structures. This may ease the stress on damaged structures, such as the rotator cuff tendon or the labrum.

Some changes in your body position may help in eliminating repetitive stress injuries.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Dallas, Tex.

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