Sidelined by the Shoulder []

In the 2011 NFL season so far one of the most common injury is the shoulder. Why is this injury so common, so early in the NFL season? Did not having a full training camp make the NFL player’s shoulder’s more vulnerable to injury? Here are some key exercises that can be done to help strengthen the shoulder.

Shoulder Injury (Photo: Leedman)

In the 2011 NFL  season so far one of the most common injury is the shoulder.  Numerous player’s are missing  games or playing time with this injury.  An example is Washington Redskins running back Tim Hightower who hurt his shoulder on the third play of the game.  Mike Shannon said he could tell a difference in Hightower’s play after the injury.

Why is this injury so common during the first quarter of this young NFL season?  Did the crazy “off-season” have any impact on the vulnerability of these shoulders?

Here are four daily exercises to keep your shoulders strong and healthy.

Remember that the exercises described on the next two pages, which help strengthen the muscles of your shoulder (especially the rotator cuff), should not cause you pain. If the exercise hurts, use a smaller weight and stop exercising when the pain begins.

Perform each exercise slowly: lift your arm to a slow count of three and lower your arm to a slow count of six.

Look at the pictures with each exercise so you can follow the right position. Warm up before adding weights: stretch your arms and shoulders and do pendulum exercises (bend from the waist, arms hanging down; keeping arm and shoulder muscles relaxed, move arms slowly back and forth).

Keep repeating each exercise until your arm is tired. Use a light enough weight that you don’t get tired until you’ve done the exercise about 20 to 30 times. Increase the weight a little each week (but never so much that the weight causes pain): start with 2 ounces the first week, move up to 4 ounces the second week, 8 ounces the next week, and so on.

If you do all four exercises three to five times a week, your rotator cuff muscles will become stronger and you’ll regain normal strength in your shoulder. Each time you finish doing all four exercises, put an ice pack on your shoulder for 20 minutes. It’s best to use a plastic bag with ice cubes in it, or a bag of frozen peas, not gel packs.

Exercise 1:

Start by lying on your stomach on a table or a bed. Put your left arm out at shoulder level with your elbow bent to 90 degrees and your hand down. Keep your elbow bent and slowly raise your left hand. Stop when your hand is level with your shoulder. Lower the hand slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the whole exercise again with your right arm

Exercise 2:

Lie on your right side with a rolled-up towel under your right armpit. Stretch your right arm above your head. Keep your left arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90 degrees and the forearm resting against your chest, palm down. Roll your left shoulder out, raising the left forearm until it’s level with your shoulder. (Hint: this is like the backhand swing in tennis.) Lower the arm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the whole exercise again with your right arm.

Exercise 3:

Lie on your right side. Keep your left arm along the upper side of your body. Bend your right elbow to 90 degrees. Keep the right forearm resting on the table. Now roll your right shoulder in, raising your right forearm up to your chest. (Hint: this is like the forehand swing in tennis.) Lower the forearm slowly. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the whole exercise again with your other arm.

Exercise 4:

In a standing position, start with your right arm halfway between the front and the side of your body, thumb down. Raise your right arm until almost level (about a 45 degree angle). (Hint: this is like emptying a can.) Don’t lift beyond the point of pain. Slowly lower your arm. Repeat the exercise until your arm is tired. Then repeat the whole exercise again with your other arm.
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Young Pitchers at Risk for Serious Shoulder Injuries

If you want little Johnny to have shoulder and elbow problems early in life, sign him up as a pitcher for the Little League team across town with that retired Marine drill sergeant as a coach.

Meanwhile, if you love Johnny and want to preserve his athletic career, enrolling him in a Little League program, limit how many innings he can pitch and continue to change his positions on the field.  That’s the smart move, according to the experts, and his throwing shoulder and elbow will thank you.

The American Journal of Sports Medicine recently reported the results of a 10 year study on the impact of young pitchers (aged 9 to 14 years old) who suffer from shoulder and elbow injuries.  The study  noted the scary fact that “pitching more than 100 innings in a year significantly increases risk of injury.”

I know of professional baseball scouts that see the trend of baseball pitchers who grow up in southern states tend to have more shoulder and elbow injuries earlier in their careers compared to similar pitchers raised in northern states.  The reason:  the cold weather in the north allows these athletes to throw less at a younger age by forcing them to participate in other sports during the winter months.

The study by the AJSM, authored by many highly respected sports medicine experts including Dr. James Andrews, found that young pitchers who pitched more than 100 innings in a year were 3.5 times more likely to be injured.  By limiting the number of innings pitched and prolonging the age at which these young athletes start to throw curveballs, the pitchers’ are much less likely to suffer from a shoulder injury.

When you look at a Media Guide for any professional sport, you’ll always be surprised to see the various positions and sports that the pro players played in their youth.  That’s not a coincidence.  “Cross training” and improving athleticism with many sports at a young age has great value for the body and the mind.  In this age of specialization, joints and bones of young growing athletes specializing in one sport or activity may have a tendency to be negatively altered.

Controlling the volume of hard throwing and the type of pitches a young body is allowed to throw is smart injury prevention in my book.  Let’s allow our kids to enjoy being kids.  As for Dad’s goal of his son being the next big star pitcher…let’s make sure Johnny is dreaming that same dream and if we protect his shoulder at a young age, he’ll have an arm left to chase that dream.