Preventing Shoulder Injury

The shoulder joint performs amazing feats of strength and mobility every day. The overhead thrower uses these anatomic features like no other. An overhead thrower generates a great deal of force and torque while maintaining the appropriate mechanics of four different joints. Any deviation from normal mechanics may cause a host of problems that can decrease performance or even end a season. The muscles of the rotator cuff, scapula, and anterior chest wall provide the power to generate ball speed and allow a smooth delivery.

Training these particular muscle groups can protect the shoulder from injury and improve performance. Training differs for competition phase and off-season programs, but can be easily incorporated into existing routines, or warm-up sessions. The key is to maintain the appropriate strength ratio between the muscles of internal and external rotation of the shoulder, and develop balance between anterior and posterior muscles of the chest wall.

Principles to Consider:

  • Remember to look back. Strong back muscles stabilize the scapula during all phases of a throw. The shoulder can't generate force without a stable base of support.
  • Find your range. When lifting, work through the entire range of motion to help strengthen the muscles where they will be taxed the most…at the end-range of motion.
  • Keep it simple. Working the shoulder muscles doesn't require expensive equipment. Body weight-resisted exercise like pushups, pull-ups, and dips work multiple muscle groups with each repetition.
  • Pain = No Gain. Attempting to "work through" acute or progressive pain can cause further tissue damage and actually increase your time to complete recovery. Rest is a necessary part of any strength training program.

Paul Pursley, PT