If you’re an athlete, chances are you rely heavily on your shoulders to perform. Whether you throw, hit, swing, lift, or press, your shoulder joints come into play. They’re the most complex joints in your body and give athletes both stability and mobility.
And that’s a hard balance to strike, because the more mobile your shoulder joint is, the less stable it is, and vice versa. But even if you work hard to maximize both shoulder stability and mobility, the combined factors of repeated movements, extreme stress, and sheer force are often too much for this joint to handle.
Dr. Damon Christian Kimes here at Roswell Pain and Weight Loss Specialists can help you stay in the game by preventing some of the most common sports-related shoulder injuries. Dr. Kimes has compiled this list of tips to help keep your shoulder in top condition!
1. Maintain good posture
Proper posture is important for everyone but especially for athletes. Sitting for long periods of time at school or work puts a lot of stress on your shoulders. Gravity pulls your head down and your neck forward, bringing your shoulders with them.
Over time, this force decreases the space inside your shoulder joints, called the subacromial space, which houses your muscles, ligaments, and cartilage. With less room to move freely, any or all of these crucial components can become impinged and damaged.
2. Get stronger
The shoulder is often called a ball and socket joint, where the “socket” is made up of soft tissues, like muscles, ligaments, and tendons. The best way to stabilize this notoriously unstable joint is to strengthen the muscles within and around it.
Seated rowing, resistance bands, dumbbells, and lat pull downs are just a few of the exercises that target your shoulders. Dr. Kimes can design a customized set of activities to help you strengthen the right muscles. These exercises help you avoid injury in your sport, with the added benefit of helping you excel on the playing field!
3. Pay attention to body mechanics
Although repeated motions can cause wear and tear on any body part, including your shoulder, most sports injuries are caused by poor mechanics. That’s why it’s important for athletes to learn how to move correctly as soon as they enter the sport.
Every movement you make with your shoulder requires a harmonious reaction between all of the functions of your joint.
For example, an overhead throw requires several functions at once. As your shoulder rotates through several planes of motion, any improper movement can injure the tissues, cause inflammation, and take up valuable subacromial space.
Likewise, if any of the four rotator cuff muscles is out of sync or weaker than the others, the resulting instability causes damage and possibly pain. Training with a coach who understands body anatomy, especially in the context of your sport, is vital to learning proper body mechanics and preventing injury.
Hand in hand with your strength exercises, proper stretching can also help you avoid shoulder injuries. Strong muscles give you stability, but well-stretched muscles give you flexibility and great range of motion.
Interlocking your fingers diagonally behind your back with one elbow pointed up and the opposite elbow pointed down is a good way to increase your shoulders’ flexibility. Dr. Kimes can give you more exercises specifically tailored for your sport.
5. Rest and rehab
Don’t underestimate the value of a day off. There’s a reason why baseball pitchers never throw in both games of a doubleheader nor pitch for two days in a row. Rest is critical for all athletes that use frequent overhead shoulder movements.
These sports include:
- Baseball and softball
- Field events
- Soccer (goalies)
Icing the shoulder is a good way to decrease inflammation and reduce pain after a contest. Over-the-counter pain medications can also quell the swelling and ease discomfort. The resting period allows your body to repair tears and recover from the strain, giving you the best chance to go back out and do it all again another day.
If you do incur a shoulder injury, Dr. Kimes is here to create a customized treatment plan that will target your injury and rehab it to full function once again. Your treatment may include corticosteroid injections or the latest regenerative medicine techniques, including platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections.
What is PRP? This innovative treatment method takes a sample of your own blood, processes it to isolate the powerful growth factors, and reinjects it into your joint to stop inflammation, reduce pain, and speed healing.
If you’re an athlete looking to either avoid a shoulder injury or recover from one, Dr. Kimes can help. Give our Roswell, Georgia, office a call or book an appointment online to get your shoulder ready for action.