The Dynamic Shoulder Joint: Injury prevention and performance building

The shoulder joint is the most dynamic joint in the body. It plays a role in nearly every movement we make on a daily basis. When you take a good look at the general population, shoulder joint problems trump just about any other orthopedic problem.  It may not be as debilitating as a knee joint issue, but it still means dealing with pinches and aches throughout the day. 

I have a personal beef with the shoulder joint. My right shoulder does not function nearly as well as the left due to years of overhead slinging off the baseball mound. The amount of shoulder pain from a tear in my labrum ultimately played a factor in cutting my college baseball career shorter than I expected. I firmly believe that if I would have known then what I know now, I would not have experienced such issues with my right shoulder joint.  

Focusing on athletes…the problem lies within strength coaches and trainers not paying attention to a very important factor in shoulder mobility: the scapula. The scapula doesn’t receive nearly enough credit for how it functions for overhead athletes. By overhead athletes, I mean tennis, golf, baseball, softball, volleyball, and many more. 

The scapula (shoulder blade) is a strange-looking triangular bone that’s slightly curved. It houses a socket into which the head of the humerus fits to form the shoulder joint. When at rest, the scapula must sit at the correct height on the trunk as well as the correct distance from the spine. This sets the stage for arm movement. When the arm moves, the scapula must lift upward or elevate, rotate away from the spine, slide away from the spine (abduct), and finally tilt backward (posterior tilting). It must do this to help the arm perform whatever task it’s trying to do. If the scapula doesn’t help the arm, then excessive stress is placed on the shoulder joint because it bears more than its share of the load. Common mistakes that I see that will cause scapular weakness will be someone not pushing up all the way through the shoulders during a pushup, or simply not doing small movement exercises that load and unload the scapula. 

Below I have provided a link to a shoulder series of exercises that will improve shoulder mobility, decrease the likelihood of injury, and increase performance in overhead athletes. Along with clients of Body Symmetry (Spfld, IL) such as a college softball team and a current minor league professional baseball pitcher, I do these myself 3 times a week (MWF to be exact). Since carefully compiling these exercises 6-7 weeks ago, I have NO pain or pinching when I wake up every morning. That in itself has been a serious revelation for me. I also no longer feel the agonizing aching that I use to feel on long distance runs after swinging my arms for an hour or two. The greatest thing I have heard so far has been the professional pitcher revealing he has hit 93mph just before heading to Spring Training in Arizona. This is 5-6 mph faster than what he typically averages. Coincidence? Maybe. Could be. The Scapula Series certainly hasn’t hurt, though! 

So, whether you’re an overhead athlete or someone who suffers from shoulder mobility issues and pain, give this a try 3 times a week and let me know what you think. 

 

Jared

P.S. Still working on my “on-camera” presence. AWKWARD. 

 

 

Move to the beat of your own drum. 

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