PREPARING FOR WARM WEATHER SPORTS AND OVERHEAD ARM MOTIONS

by

Tid Bits of Info

  • Pitch counts are used to protect pitchers’ shoulders and should be used for all ages.
  • The shoulder can rotate at a speed > 7000 degrees/second when throwing a ball.
  • The shoulder rotates at speeds > 3000 degrees/second when serving a tennis ball.
  • If you develop shoulder pain seek the advice and treatment of a Physical Therapist.

Rising temperatures, sunny days and blue skies are calling us outside to walks in the greenbelt, picnics in the park, and sporting events. As the weather warms, you might end up using muscles you haven’t exercised for several months. Many warm weather sports require arm movements above shoulder level.  In tennis, baseball and softball, the act of throwing or hitting the ball can cause a lot of shoulder pain and injuries if the joint and body are not prepared for that type of motion. It’s a good idea to start training and conditioning prior to playing these sports to avoid injuries related to your arm and shoulder.

Throwing or hitting a ball when it is above shoulder level requires movement and motions throughout the body.  If the body is not prepared for these motions it can suffer an injury that can limit a person’s ability to perform the sport. These injuries and pain can also hinder proper functioning for everyday activities.

The shoulder joint is comprised of three bones, scapulae, clavicle, and humerus.  The head of the humerus rests on the Glenoid fossa of the scapula where it articulates when the muscles of the shoulder contract to move the arm.   The repetitive nature of throwing or swinging a racquet above shoulder level can cause injuries to the joint over time. The speed at which the humeral head rotates during the throwing motion can be as great as 7000 degrees per second.

There are numerous exercises that can be performed to prepare the body for this type of activity.   The following are some of the basics that will help you avoid an injury to the major muscles and joints that are associated with this type of activity.

20934403 - tennis player with ball on racket while service hit

Squats: Stand in front of a chair as if you are going to sit down. Your feet should be shoulder width apart. Begin to “sit” down slowly and barely touch your buttocks to the chair seat. Return to an erect/standing position.  Leg strength is important for running but also is the primary area of the body that enables someone to generate a forceful throw or racquet swing.

Core strength:  The core is every muscle that attaches to the pelvis.  This includes the torso muscles and leg muscles.   Planks can be performed to help strengthen these muscles.  Planks: Lie prone (on your stomach) and push yourself up off of the floor. Support your body weight on your forearms, elbows and toes. No other body part should touch the floor during the exercise. If it is too hard to support your body weight this way, you may allow your knees to touch the floor. The position should be held for 10-30 seconds or longer.

Side Planks: Lie on one side. Push your body weight up off of the floor and support it with our forearm and elbow on the side where you are lying. The side of your foot rests on the floor during the exercise routine. If this position is too difficult, keep the entire side of your leg below the knee on the floor during the exercise. Hold the position 10-30 seconds or longer.

The shoulder needs a lot of support from the shoulder blade (scapula) muscles in order to work properly.  If you are able to perform a rowing type exercise it will help your shoulder blade “stabilize” your arm as it moves through the motions of throwing or swinging a racquet.

Pull-Aparts:   Your arms should be at or near shoulder level and your elbows should be fully extended (straight). Your palms should be facing each other so that your thumbs are pointed towards the ceiling. Slowly move your arms apart and stretch (“pull apart”) the resistance tubing. Your goal is to get your hands spread apart with your elbows straight and in line with your shoulders. Your arms should remain parallel to the floor at all times. The final phase of this exercise is to take your shoulder blades and squeeze them together.

Push-ups:  The Push Up position can be modified so everyone can perform this exercise. It is great to use to build strength in the chest and arms. The “proper” position is to be prone (face down) on the floor and rise up on your hands and toes. Nothing else should be touching the floor. Your elbows are straight and your hands are shoulder width apart. The push up exercise begins by lowering your body to the floor (don’t touch) and then “push” it back upwards to the starting position. You can modify this exercise by placing your knees on the floor throughout the routine.

There are a number of static (holding a position) stretches that can be performed to help aid in gaining flexibility.  Pre-competition stretching should be dynamic (movement through a range of motion to facilitate the increased flexibility of a given muscle / joint (s)).

Stretching suggestions for post- competition or on non-competition days:

Trunk rotations: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Slowly rotate your knees to the floor to one side. Hold the stretch and then rotate to the other side.

Hamstring stretch: Stand in front of a step. Put one heel on the step. Keep that knee straight and lean forward attempting to put your chest on that kneecap.

DOORWAY STRETCH (Corner stretch): Stand in the opening of the doorway. Place both arms on the doorway frame with the palms flat against the frame. Your arms should be near shoulder level. Slowly move forward until you feel a stretching sensation in the front of your shoulders and chest area.

If you properly prepare your body for your sport or activity, you greatly reduce the chances of suffering an injury. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that an injury will not occur during the event.  If you injure your shoulder or another body part, seek diagnosis and treatment from a Physical Therapist. There is no need to visit your doctor first, but your insurance policy might require you to have a referral from your primary care physician.

Properly preparing the body for an upcoming event that puts abnormal stress and strain on certain body parts can help to prevent an injury from occurring while participating in the event.  Spend time stretching and strengthening your entire body and hopefully your will not experience a shoulder injury during your sport that requires movements of your arm above shoulder level.