Baseball season is here and offseason football practices are ongoing, so now is the time to be mindful of how you play on and off the field. The shoulder is such an extraordinary body part. For instance, the kind of torsion stress that throwing a ball puts on a shoulder can create a type of unique damage among athletes of all ages. Proper warm up and good mechanics can reduce the potential for injury, while taking appropriate action when injury does occur may help to minimize the extent of injury.
Young shoulders require safeguards
Young children are still growing, and having growth plates that are not closed yet can leave young athletes more easily susceptible to injury if they don’t properly prepare their bodies for sports. This is why it is critically important for young children in athletics to warm up their arms before entering into any activity, such as throwing, that could potentially put strain on the shoulder. Don’t let your child start throwing with a cold arm. They should complete 15 to 20 minutes of stretching exercises before they start physical activity.
There also should be a limitation on the number of pitches kids perform to avoid overuse.
I can’t overstate the importance of proper mechanics, though, when it comes to preventing injury. Seek out coaching staff who know the proper way to perform athletically. Not only will your child see better results with proper mechanics, but they’ll also be less susceptible to long-term injuries.
Adult shoulders need adequate recovery time
With young adults and adults, mechanics and stretching are still vitally important, but there’s no real limitation on the number of throws one can make. However, there may be situations young adults or adults face that young children don’t – such as weight lifting, which typically is part of a sports regimen at these later stages in an athlete’s career. It’s critical to make sure you’re not overusing the arm or overlifting in the weight room.
Another thing to keep in mind at this point in an athletic career is that the body needs time to rest to build back up after a period of strenuous use. Give your arm a break in between uses – two days should be plenty of time to recuperate.
Shoulder pain isn’t to be shrugged off
Often times, even when you’ve properly stretched and warmed up, you’ll experience some soreness in your shoulder after use. This can often be addressed with rest, the avoidance of additional stress and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. If your condition improves, wait a week or two before resuming activity. If pain returns, go see a doctor while your shoulder can be treated at a lower stage of injury.
A strain can heal with proper conservative care, but if not properly cared for, the shoulder can be reinjured or the condition may worsen all together. If a tear or partial tear in the shoulder occurs, surgery may become necessary.
Obviously, if you’re in severe pain, can’t raise your arm, can see swelling over the shoulder, feel dislocation, have loss of movement, or experience numbness or tingling in the arm, it’s better to be safe and make an appointment to see a physician. Basically, listen to your body. If something hurts, don’t continue to carry out the motion that’s causing the pain and let it rest.
Dr. Allen Deutsch is an orthopedic surgeon with Kelsey-Seybold. He specializes in shoulder surgery, elbow surgery and sports medicine, and strives to give patients a thorough understanding of their orthopedic condition and the options available to them.