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Spring brings baseball and softball season – and a time for the athlete to take heed of injuries that can occur in the throwing shoulder. The athlete may start by complaining of shoulder pain that is present only when throwing and for a short time afterward; however, the shoulder pain may progress to where it is present before, during and after activity. The athlete eventually becomes unable to throw at all due to the pain in the shoulder.

Chronic conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, impingement and subluxation are closely related. All of them may cause pain in the same area: in the tendon or in a pinched bursa (small cushion that allows tendons to move over the bone as they contract and relax) next to the tendon.

Rotator cuff tendinitis occurs when the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed as it rubs on the undersurface of the shoulder. Similarly, bursitis results from the repeated pinching of the bursae between the shoulder structures, putting additional pressure on the already-inflamed shoulder area. The combination of tendinitis and bursitis may result in impingement in the shoulder. Symptoms include pain and weakness with overhead arm movements.

Subluxation is where the shoulder slips partially out of joint, then returns to its original position, causing instability of the shoulder joint. This is often related to fatigued muscles in the shoulder.

Since they are primarily related to overuse, these conditions can be relieved by resting the shoulder to provide time for healing; by strengthening, stretching and building muscular endurance; and using a throwing program that includes a warm-up and a gradual return to throwing after a long layoff. Athletes may be able to avoid further injury that may result in shoulder surgery by following these guidelines.

Prevention of Shoulder Injuries

  • Use proper body mechanics to avoid injury
  • Perform strengthening exercises to build muscular endurance
  • Warm up and stretch the shoulder before and after playing
  • Get adequate rest in between games to prevent overuse.

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