Shoulder Pain from Throwing a Baseball
January 31st, 2012
Shoulder injuries and pain within the shoulder area during the throwing motion are common complaints among baseball players. The number of players seeking treatment for shoulder specific injuries and conditions is especially high during the baseball season each spring. In particular baseball players seek treatment for acute shoulder pain experienced during the throwing motion which incidentally is referred to as “dead arm” syndrome.
The dynamics of the game of baseball are such that the vulnerability of the shoulder is enhanced as the shoulder is extensively used for pitching of the ball. However, among the throwing athlete the pain experienced during the throwing motion is far more commonly reported as the condition can persist for days and weeks and in some cases even years.
How Is The Pain In The Shoulder Caused?
Since accuracy and velocity are critical to pitching, players need to practice hard to maintain and or to improve their “throwing arm” constantly. However, the velocity and accuracy with which a baseball player pitches the ball can be extensively affected due to pain experienced in the shoulder area.
A number of reasons can cause injury and pain in the shoulder of a thrower. While physical fitness and general condition of the body can and do impact the severity of the pain and the condition, it has been found that both conditioned and de-conditioned athletes suffer from pain in the shoulder during the throwing motion.
In de-conditioned athletes the pain and its associated symptoms develop far more rapidly essentially because the player is either out of shape or there is general weakness of the muscles and also because their muscle and shoulder mechanics might be completely off.
Conditioned athletes even with their excellent upper body strength and peak physical conditions can develop pain in the throwing shoulder either because they workout excessively and or because they practice throwing pitches too long and too hard.
In both cases, the rotator cuff which is critical to shoulder movement gets over-worked. An overused rotator cuff leads to pain in the shoulder area during the throwing motion. Over a period of time, as the wear and tear increases in the shoulder area, secondary conditions start developing which include inflammation with internal impingement within the joint or external impingement within the bursa space.
Types of Shoulder Injuries
Internal impingement commonly affects throwing athletes and is caused when the shoulder joint is not maintained properly by the cup and can lead to the shoulder sliding. The condition is further compounded when the tendons of the rotator cuff and ligaments within the shoulder area start striking against each other which can lead to a partial thickness tearing of the rotator cuff.
In external impingement which again can be caused by the weakening or the overuse of the rotator cuff tendons inflammation of the bursa space is a commonly seen. Upon examination, certain areas of the shoulder display an acute buildup of pressure which can lead to pain and tendonitis and in extreme cases to full thickness tearing of the rotator cuff.
Reduce Shoulder Pain
Once the cause of the injury or pain has been established, specific steps which involve improving blood circulation around the shoulder area can be taken to provide relief to the shoulder. Resting the shoulder is a primary requirement and can jump start the treatment process. Applying a cold compress to the inflamed area after due workout can help in reducing both swelling and pain. Based on the severity of the condition physicians will advice players on either non-invasive form of treatment which includes physiotherapy and medication or surgical treatment.
Preventing Shoulder Pain In The Throwing Athlete
Players and coaches should be careful about regulating their physical workouts. Adopting a healthy diet and taking sufficient rest is critical to preventing injuries. Another major consideration in preventing shoulder pain and subsequent injuries is age of the player. Based on the age, coaches should set a limit on the kind of workout and the number of pitches a player should throw on a given day or in a week. As soon as a game or a practice session is over, players should take adequate care to rest their shoulder area with local applications of a cold compress.
Dr. Vin Santoro
Dr. Vin Santoro is a local expert for shoulder injuries in the throwing athlete. Also, Dr. Santoro is an active participant in the local little league community.