There are many types of shoulder injuries and surprisingly many of the injuries are not caused by high pressure sports such as tennis. It is quite common for the injury to come about because of run of the mill repetitive actions. For example the shop worker repeatedly stacking high shelves can find themselves with the same type of shoulder injuries that any of the top notch tennis stars can get.
The shoulder is prone to many injuries because of its versatility; the arm can be manoeuvred in almost any direction because of the shoulder’s flexibility. This leaves it vulnerable to problems coming from so many different movements. Being so mobile leads the shoulder to be less stable than the other large joints in the body. Try moving your leg in as many directions as you can move your arm!
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons ("AAOS"), the most common shoulder injuries seen are sprains, strains and tendonitis. The subtle difference between sprain and strain can be explained as, “a strain is an injury to either the muscle or tendon”, whereas a sprain is, “a stretching or tearing of ligaments”. This definition comes from the AAOS. They also define tendonitis as, “a series of small stresses to the tendon”.
For tennis players shoulder injuries are the most frequent form of injury. This is because of the continued use and putting it under pressure during training and competitive matches. Causes of some of the shoulder injuries are that there has been a muscular imbalance and wear and tear because of constant use. The area within the shoulder most at risk of injury is the rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is a group of shoulder muscles, mainly on the back side of the shoulder. Their role is to provide stabilization for the shoulder. The problem is that these muscles are relatively small compared to the chest muscles which they must be a counter balance for. So if a person hits a tennis ball with an overhead swing the rotator cuff muscles must effectively stabilize the shoulder as the motion takes place and slow the arm down as it follows through from hitting the ball, opposing the larger chest muscles which are working in opposition.
If the rotator cuff muscles are tired or not strong enough then shoulder injuries are likely because of shoulder instability. Many athletes do special exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles with the specific aim of reducing the risk of rotator cuff injury. These exercises do not require any special equipment and anyone can do them.
According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons the secret is to rest and use ice and compression as soon as anything noticeable happens. Do not try to train or play through the pain, it will only make things worse. Learn the exercises to strengthen the rotator cuff muscles and if the problem does not go away then see your health professional. If any shoulder injuries persist then usually the answer is surgery but this will always be after further diagnosis and consultations. Ignoring the signs can result in the condition becoming chronic causing a lifetime of pain and inability to play your favorite sports.
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