Article provided by James G. Garrick, M.D
Condition Yourself Against 'Softball Shoulder'
Softball season is beginning - and we can figure that out without even looking at the calendar. The tip-off is that people are beginning to come into the Center for Sports Medicine with sore shoulders.
Softball may be one of the most popular and enjoyable recreational sports, but it's tough on the shoulder - especially shoulders that may have done little more the rest of the year than hoist knives and forks. Shoulder injuries are one of the four most common problems in softball - the others are ankle sprains, knee problems and hand injuries.
Often a shoulder injury is the result of a hard throw when you're not warmed up or in shape. Or maybe you are just throwing way too much during your first practice sessions of the season. And it is tough to get in shape for throwing because you may not play more often than a couple of times a week even after the season starts. And that's not enough to establish any kind of sustained conditioning.
So it's a good idea to prepare your shoulders for softball season. And it's not hard to do. In fact, the exercises we're about to suggest do double duty - not only do they condition your shoulder beforehand, they serve as a good rehabilitation program to restore range of motion and endurance after an injury.
First, bend over at the waist as much as is comfortable and let your arm swing lazily in a circle. The key is "lazily." Just use enough muscle to kick your arm into motion. Swing clockwise for a while, then counterclockwise, first with one arm and then the other. And it doesn't matter if you make a perfect circle or not - an egg shape will do just fine.
Second, stand up and pretend you're on one end of a double-handled saw, and start sawing. Back and forth, in and out, way out and way back, first with one arm then the other. As with all these exercises, the more repetitions you do, the more your range of motion will increase.
Next, let your arms fall to your sides. Then raise them to right angles to your body, and slowly let them fall, as though you're flapping your wings. Raise them up to a comfortable level only. As you become more flexible, you'll be able to flap in a wider arc.
Finally, shrug your shoulders. That's all. Just shrug your shoulders.
These exercises run your shoulders through their entire range of motion. Work up to doing 50 of each exercise, two to three times a day. If you do, you'll strengthen and balance the shoulder muscles and develop some endurance as well.
Shoulder injuries come on all of a sudden or sneak up over time. You'll know if it's the first type because your shoulder will suddenly hurt after single throw. In that case, you may have torn a portion of the tendons that help to hold your shoulder in balance. If the injury comes on gradually, it's probably the result of some minor tearing of the tendons accompanied by swelling and muscle spasms.
If it's a sudden injury, ice the area right away. If it comes on gradually, gentle stretching of the kind we've described will most likely help. And with either kind of injury, begin these rehabilitative exercises in earnest as soon as you're comfortable enough to do so.
One caution: If you experience any numbness, tingling, weakness or inability to use your arm, see a doctor. Shoulders are finely tuned and balanced joints. You don't want to take any chances with them.