PlaySafe AT Home: Overhead Athlete Injury Prevention

If you are a participant in a throwing or “overhead” sport, such as volleyball, baseball, or softball, and you end up in the athletic training room, it is most likely due to “shoulder pain.” Most of the time the pain is generalized as a “pinch” or “sharp” pain in the front of the shoulder or complaints of tightness of the rotator cuff. Many times, the acute or chronic shoulder pain we see in the athletic training room are bicep or rotator cuff tendinopathy, subacromial bursitis, strains of the proximal biceps or rotator cuff, or lesions of the labrum. In clinic, most of these possible assessments of shoulder pain are treated/rehabbed the same. First, decrease pain and inflammation and start the “cookie-cutter” shoulder rehab plan, which consists of mostly addressing range of motion restrictions with biomechanical/postural corrective exercises, theraband resisted shoulder exercises, scapular stabilization, and then later with sport-specific movement patterns and throwing programs. Since general shoulder pain is commonly treated similarly no matter the differential diagnosis, we can implement prevention plans with our overhead athletes before an injury or pain. In the athletic training room, I typically always base the treatment plan off of the throwers 10 exercise program. However, most of the issues I see with my overhead athletes are that biomechanically, they have restricted shoulder and thoracic mobility, as well as a lack of eccentric control and scapular stabilization during the overhead movement. I have seen a decrease in “pain” more quickly by addressing mobility restrictions along with adding core stability and anti-rotational exercises while also teaching athletes how to do basic theraband warm-up exercises on their own before sport. The goal of the theraband exercises incorporated in the athlete’s warmup is to strengthen the athlete’s rotator cuff and posterior chain muscles of the shoulder. In conclusion, the throwers 10 exercise program is a great tool that can be implemented as a prevention plan for any overhead athlete. Anyone can use the throwers 10 exercise program if they have access to theraband and or lightweight dumbbells.

Blog information by: Tom Kemmerle, ATC at Pendleton HS