Shoulder Pain in Overhead Athletes

shoulder pain among overhead athletes

Shoulder pain is a common aggravation for the overhead athlete. Whether from throwing, hitting, swinging or swimming, the athletes who repetitively perform overhead movements are susceptible to breakdown.

A key factor in the aggravation for the overhead athlete is the design of the shoulder joint itself. The shoulder joint is comprised of a large ball coupled with a small, shallow socket. Many compare the shoulder joint to a golf ball sitting on a tee. While this design affords the joint massive amounts of movement, it does so at the cost of stability. Unlike most other joints, there is minimal “built-in” stability of the shoulder’s bone structures. Thus, the stability the joint does have comes primarily from the tendons, ligaments and cartilage.

We often hear of the “rotator cuff” associated with shoulder pain and problems and with shoulder exercise programs. The rotator cuff is a system of four muscles and tendons that function together and provide both power and stability to the joint. While it is vital for the overhead athlete to continually develop and strengthen the rotator cuff, an often overlooked fact is that all four rotator cuff muscles attach to the shoulder blade. For this reason, it is equally, if not more, important to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder blade musculature. This will provide a better foundation from which the four muscles of the rotator cuff to pull from and may allow better positioning of the shoulder joint to minimize irritation when performing overhead activities.

In short, to rehab an aggravated shoulder, or to maintain a healthy one, the overhead athlete should continue to work on his or her shoulder strength, but should also dedicate significant time to strengthening the muscles that attach the shoulder blades to the trunk – i.e. Rhomboids, Middle Trap and Serratus Anterior.

To aid in the support of the shoulder, we developed the RAPIDFORCE Standard Star Shape. The shape has six ‘arms’ that are pulled from the center covering six supportive directions. The center of the Star is placed directly over the highest point of discomfort or pain and then applied with a small amount of tension. This configuration provides the extra support and stability needed when aggravation from overhead exercising is present. Give me a call or email me and I’ll be happy to give you direction to get the support you need!

Kent Carlson