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Shoulder Maintenance and Performance

By Osteopath, Sam Thompson.

Many sports heavily involve repeated high intensity movements of the shoulder. Such sports include cricket, tennis and baseball. Having a strong and stable shoulder is a key to both performance and injury prevention. However, shoulder injuries are extremely common, especially amongst sports people.

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People often talk about having a “strong arm” in regards to throwing/serving in certain sports. However the actual “arm” is one of the smallest contributors to the force produced during a throw or serve. The arm and shoulder simply act as a lever where the force produced can exit from the body and be transferred into a ball/racquet etc. The force produced actually comes all the way from the ground up. The greatest contributor to the force is your legs and in particular your quadriceps (anterior thigh) and glute (bottom) muscles. Following this the force flows through the bodies core. The core and trunk rotate and then flex to further add more momentum. These motions are where the major majority of force will come from. So if you are looking to add a few extra kilometers per hour in your sport the following exercises will help you to do so:

russian-twist

The russian-twist. Image @ coachman.co.uk

Legs
• Single leg lunges (both sides)
• Standard squats
• Jump squats

Core
• Core plank
• Russian twists
• Sit ups
• Dead-lifts

There is another major element to these actions that needs to be taken into account. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that sit around the shoulder and help to provide support to the joint.

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The rotator cuff, viewed from above.

These muscles play a major role in any kind of throwing or serving type motion. These muscles will subconsciously contract during this type of movement to slow down your arm. This is obviously not helpful in terms of sporting performance however it is holding your shoulder in place and without the rotator cuff the shoulder would have far less support in these motions. The stronger your rotator cuff is, the quicker and easier it will be able to slow down your arm. If it takes less time to slow down the arm movement, the force exerted will be greater than someone who’s rotator cuff has to be active longer throughout their throwing motion. A great way to once again improve performance is to increase the strength of these muscles by doing the following exercises:

• Theraband external rotations with the elbow at 90
• Theraband external rotations with arms by side.
• Prone overhead reaches

The rotator cuff muscles are rather small, especially compared to the much larger muscles groups spoken about earlier. If you look at the amount of force your body is producing from your legs, into your core, through your upper body and out of your arm; it is easy to see why the rotator cuff is often and rather easily injured. These small muscles are working to counteract the force of all the other muscles involved. For injury prevention, it is imperative to make sure that your rotator cuff muscles are strong otherwise they become very prone to injury. It is important to build strength evenly on both sides, so try not to prioritize just one side of your body with these exercises as it may lead to further complications down the track.

In conjunction with rotator cuff strength, athletes should always make sure that they undertake to a proper warm up (including stretching) to avoid injury. Work within your own bodies limits, and if pain is experienced then it is important to stop and rest until pain completely subsides.

Following these steps will not only improve your shoulders performance but also to make it a far more stable joint. This will reduce the risk of injury and prolong your time as an athlete.

If you have sustained a shoulder injury in the past, are currently suffering from one or are looking to improve your shoulder mechanics and performance, feel free to book in with the friendly staff at Growing Bones for a treatment and enjoy the relief osteopathy can provide.

Sam Thompson is available Mondays and Fridays at Growing Bones, online bookings are here.

About the Author

Melissa McDougall