How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Sports

Any sport that requires repetitive overhead movements has the potential to cause shoulder injuries. Oftentimes, overuse of the joint is the cause of the injury and this can be frustrating for both competitive and recreational athletes because they have to put in hours of practice to become good at their sport.

So how does an “overhead” athlete prevent shoulder joint problems and still log in the necessary training time?

The three most important guidelines include increasing training time and intensity gradually, strengthening/stretching the rotator cuff muscles, and strengthening the core muscles for better transfer of power generation from the legs and trunk to the shoulders and arms.

Proper technique also goes a long way in preventing shoulder injuries in sports. Here are some tips that may help from various sports and sports medicine websites.

· Avoid swimming freestyle at every workout even if you are training for a triathlon. You will get a better cross training effect by including other strokes and, more importantly, avoid an overuse injury.

· One of the most important things in stroke technique when it comes to freestyle and avoiding shoulder injuries is to bend your elbows underwater during the pull. This is proper form and will keep you from putting your shoulder in an awkward position that leads to a rotator cuff problem.

· Avoid breathing on only one side because you will develop the muscles more on one side than the other, and this could cause a shoulder problem. Incorporate bilateral breathing into your workouts.

· Avoid the excessive use of pull buoys and paddles because they give you a false sense of flotation and put unnecessary tension on your shoulder joints.

Peak Performance Digest:

· Avoid insufficient body roll, catching the water too close to the midline, not keeping the shoulder blade stabilized on the trunk during the pull phase, and not keeping the elbow high enough during the recovery phase.


· Freestylers and backstrokers who swim with an insufficient or improper body roll place too much emphasis upon using shoulder muscles as "prime movers" to provide positioning, propulsion, and recovery. It also forces the arm to recover in a position parallel to the water’s surface, which can cause shoulder impingement. If proper hip and shoulder roll are utilized, these elements come from the major trunk muscles, therefore reducing stress upon the shoulder muscles.

Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation:

· Rotator cuff tendonitis in recreational tennis players usually results from excessive overhead serving. This is more likely to occur if you hold your arm at a 90-degree angle from your side while you are serving. Changing your technique to increase the angle between your arm and side to more than 90° (ideally 135°) will lessen the chance of injury to your rotator cuff.

· One of the main reasons for shoulder injuries in tennis is many people step onto the court and overhit the first few overhead shots and serves, therefore straining those muscles. Instead, hit half-speed or quarter-speed overheads for the first ten balls that you hit. Do this also with your serve.

· Men have more of a problem with overhitting their serve than do women. Men generally are more aggressive when they first come onto the court. All overheads and serves should be half-speed to three-quarters speed when you first start warming up.

· A good way to stretch the muscles and tendons in the shoulder is to practice your service motion without hitting a ball 10-12 times. Do this at half-speed, slowly working your way to game speed.

· According to Danish researcher Uffe Jorgenson of the University of Copenhagen, overhead movements are the not only cause of rotator cuff injuries. Functional studies have revealed that there is much more shoulder rotation involved in the forehand and backhand stroke in badminton than was previously believed, "with the internal/external rotation of the shoulder as the greatest force-producing movement."

· The conclusion of these studies indicates that rotator cuff strengthening exercises should a must for all badminton players to prevent shoulder injuries.

· The lead shoulder (left in a right-handed golfer, right for the left-handed golfer) is subjected to the most stress during the swing, so it is not uncommon for golfers to develop rotator cuff tears or other problems in the shoulder blade such as impingement or arthrosis (joint disease).

· There is some suggestion that most shoulder injuries are actually due to an excessive swing, and that in particular an exaggerated backswing is often the source of the problem.

Sports Injury Bulletin
· To avoid shoulder injuries to the lead arm, shorten your swing by ending the backswing with the club head at a 10 o’clock instead of a 3 o’clock position. He claims that this will reduce stress on the leading shoulder without sacrificing club-head speed.

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