That Throwing Arm Isn’t Indestructible

Just as fall is time for football in Texas, summer is for softball and baseball. That’s when we see lots of injuries to throwing shoulders here at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists. To help you understand shoulder injuries when playing in your softball beer league or for your high school baseball team, here are some common inflammation injuries that occur due to throwing those balls.

Common inflammation injuries

When you throw lots of balls, the motion places tremendous stress on your shoulder. This is particularly high during two phases of the throwing motion called late cocking, where the arm and hand are brought up behind the body; and in the follow through once the ball is released, where the ligaments and rotator cuff tendons at the back of the shoulder must handle significant stresses to decelerate the arm and control the head of the upper arm bone in the socket.

Generally, one structure in the shoulder, such as a ligament, becomes weakened due to repetitive stresses, and then other structures are prone to injury because they now are overloaded.

Chronic conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, impingement, and subluxation are closely related. The pain in these conditions occurs in the same area, in the tendon or in a pinched bursa next to the tendon.

  • Rotator cuff tendinitis — The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles that come together as tendons to form a covering (cuff) of tissue around the head of the upper arm bone. Tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed as it rubs on the undersurface of the shoulder.
  • Bursitis — The bursae are sacs in joints that cushion the joint. In the shoulder the bursae allow the rotator cuff tendons to glide freely when you move your arm. Bursitis in the shoulder comes from repeated pinching of these bursae.
  • Impingement — When you combine tendinitis and bursitis, it will often result in impingement in the shoulder, causing pain and weakness when using your arm over your head. Impingement occurs during the cocking phase of an overhead throw when the rotator cuff tendons at the back of the shoulder get pinched between the head of the arm bone and the socket.
  • Subluxation — If the shoulder slips partially out of joint and then returns to its normal position, this is subluxation and is usually due to fatigued shoulder muscles. This instability that allows for subluxation, or full dislocation, comes from repetitive throwing over years that stretches the ligaments and creates looseness.

Beyond these inflammation injuries, of course, are more serious issues such as rotator cuff tears, tears in the labrum, tears in the upper biceps tendon, and other injuries that will require surgery to repair.

How to prevent these injuries

Throwing and shoulder stress go hand in hand, and while you can’t prevent all injuries there are some things you can do to still play but to also protect your shoulder:

  • Strengthen your muscles to build endurance and support for the shoulder
  • Use proper throwing mechanics
  • Warm up and stretch your shoulder before and after your game
  • Rest between games to avoid overuse

Do you think you may have one of these issues with your shoulder? Call us at Urgent Orthopedic Specialists, (432) 520-3020, and let’s check it out.

Posted in: Sports Injuries

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