Common shoulder injuries in sports

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The shoulder is arguably the most complex joint in the body. It is capable of degrees of motion that no other part of the body can perform.

Since it is complex in nature, as well as frequently used in most sports, including weightlifting, it is highly prone to injuries that can range from mild to severe and may even require surgery. Worse, injuries, no matter how minor, can cause prolonged or even chronic pain in the joint and potentially limit the range of motion, which can negatively impact the quality of life for the individual. اضافة اعلان

But shoulder injuries do not result from playing sports only. A 2019 study found that 29 percent of shoulder injuries were sport related, and the sport most responsible was soccer.

Understanding the types of shoulder injuries, as well as how to manage and prevent these injuries, can reduce instances and recovery.

Anatomy of the shoulder
The shoulder’s range of motion is due to the fact that it is not a single joint. It actually comprises four different joints, each with multiple muscles responsible for movement. In total, there are 19 different muscles that assist movement, but there are four muscles that are particularly important; they are referred to as the rotator cuff.

The rotator cuff is primarily responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint. In order to accomplish this, there are tendons that serve as connection points for muscle to bone. There are also eight fluid-filled sacs, called bursa, which help cushion joints.

In simple terms, a sprain is when a ligament is overstretched or torn, and a strain is when a muscle is overstretched or torn. Since the shoulder joint comprises many muscles and ligaments, it is not uncommon for these injuries to occur.

This type of injury most commonly occurs as a result of direct impact during sports, such as a fall, but can also occur due to fatigue or improper warm-up. Swelling usually occurs rapidly and pain is focused at the front of the shoulder. When palpating (i.e., touching or massaging) the area feels tender. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, depending on the extent of the injury. In more severe cases, it can result in the inability to move the shoulder.

Sprains and strains typically do not require surgical treatment; they mostly need rest, immobilizing the joint by using a sling, anti-inflammatory medication, and ice. Some severe cases may require physical therapy. Mild cases typically recover within 1–2 weeks, but more moderate cases may take up to 6–8 weeks. In severe cases, the pain may subside within 4–6 weeks, but may need 3–5 months of rehabilitation before full activity may be resumed.

Tendinitis is an injury in which the shoulder tendons, primarily the rotator cuff, become inflamed. Tendinitis can be caused by overuse or by sudden injury. It is most commonly seen in action where the arms are raised above the head. This type of injury is common in sports such as volleyball, basketball, swimming, and overhead weightlifting workouts. Symptoms may range in intensity; sufferers of the condition generally feel pain or tenderness, and have limited range of motion.

The treatment for shoulder tendinitis is similar to that of sprains and strains, with emphasis placed on rest and reducing inflammation. In some severe cases where the pain is severe and constant, cortisone injections may be warranted. Tendinitis also takes weeks to months to recover from, and should resolve on its own.

Bursitis is an injury in which too much friction had been applied to the bursa and results in inflammation. There are three different types of bursitis, but sports-related bursitis falls under the category of traumatic bursitis. It is relatively uncommon and acute in nature, meaning it will resolve in time.

This type of injury is most commonly seen in athletes that have the area rubbed repeatedly on a hard surface or is struck, such as in American football or wrestling. Typically, after an impact, it is common for the area to become tender and warm, as well as swollen. Moreover, due to the impact, there may be associated bruising.
A 2019 study found that 29 percent of shoulder injuries were sport related, and the sport most responsible was soccer.
Bursitis can typically be managed with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, the bursa may need to be aspirated: a small needle is used to draw fluid or blood and relieve pressure.

Bursitis does not necessarily limit range of motion, unless due to pain, but care should be taken to not reinjure the affected area for a few weeks after healing.

Tendon tear
A tendon tear of the shoulder is one of the more severe forms of shoulder injury, and is commonly referred to as a torn rotator cuff. A common misconception is that a torn rotator cuff is the result of a single incident. Although it can be the result of falls or accidents (i.e., acute tear), it is most commonly the result of repeated stress over time (i.e., degenerative tear).

This type of injury is commonly seen in sports such as baseball, tennis, rowing, or weightlifting.

In case of degenerative tears, the actual tear itself may be painless and go unnoticed. However, complete tears can be quite painful and severe, and result in immediate weakness in the arm.

Depending on the severity of the tear, pain can be constant or only when moving the shoulder. Additionally, there is often weakness when lifting or rotating the arm and one may have a crackling sensation while moving.

A torn rotator cuff is quite severe in nature and should not be ignored, as it may result in worsening the damage. Depending on the severity, this injury may be managed without the need for surgery, but rest is paramount. Steroid injections (i.e., cortisone) might be used to help manage pain and inflammation. Surgery may be needed if symptoms last longer than 6–12 months or the tear is severe.

How to prevent and manage a shoulder injury
Sports-related shoulder injuries should not be taken lightly. Accidents are bound to happen in many sports, but there are some ways to help prevent or reduce the risk of developing a shoulder injury.

Stretching is a simple, yet effective way to help prevent strains, sprains, and tears. By stretching, you allow the muscles, tendons, and ligaments to become more flexible and improve your shoulder’s range of motion. In conjunction with stretching, exercising the shoulder muscles can help strengthen and stabilize the joint. In order to do this, you do not necessarily have to lift weights. Simple exercises such as yoga, push-ups, and arm rotations can accomplish this. Lastly, setting limits and resting cannot be emphasized enough. This holds especially true for sports that involve heavy use of the shoulders. Not overdoing it and giving your body time to heal from the stress during exercise can greatly reduce the risk of injury.

If you have already experienced a shoulder injury and would like to seek rehabilitation or consultation, check out Al Tamayuz Physiotherapy Center in Abdoun. They provide free consultations and even specialize in sports physiotherapy.

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