An Overview of Injuries in Overhead Athletes
Sports that involve overhead motions, such as tennis and baseball, place significant stress on the shoulder joint. When injuries do occur, they usually do so in specific patterns that are not common with other shoulder injuries. Recognition of these specific injuries and appropriate, timely treatment is essential so the athlete can return to sports. Common injuries seen by Dr. Peter Millett are rotator cuff injuries, labral and SLAP tears and glenohumeral internal rotation deficit.
Throwing injuries in the overhead athlete are commonly found in baseball pitchers, but injuries can also affect players involved in other sports such as volleyball and tennis. These shoulder injuries are caused by significant stress being placed on the structures within the joint that keep the humeral head centered in the glenoid socket.
In order to fully understand shoulder injuries in overhead athletes, it is necessary to understand the pitching/throwing motion. There are five stages to the motion – wind-up, early cocking, late cocking, acceleration and follow-through. The late cocking and follow-through phases place the most amount of stress on the shoulder joint. When one structure within the joint becomes weakened from overuse and stress, other structures must handle the overload, often leading to joint pain, stiffness and weakness.
Symptoms of Shoulder Throwing Injuries
Throwing injuries in overhead athletes range a great deal in symptoms depending on the shoulder injury that is present. The most common symptoms are shoulder pain, weakness, stiffness, instability and decreased range of motion.