Far-reaching sports can contribute to arm wear and tear.
Sports with overhead arm motion contribute to a common group of injuries in the shoulder and elbow – all of which are on the rise. These injuries not only impact players in throwing sports like baseball and softball, but also activities including tennis, swimming, volleyball, and cross-fit, that are increasing in popularity.
Common injuries include labral and rotator cuff damage in the shoulder, and ligament stretching/tearing and cartilage damage in the elbow.
How and when an athlete plays has a big impact on injury risk.
Factors that can contribute to injuries related to overhead motion include:
- Sudden activity changes: When new seasons start, athletes may not take time to build up to new motions.
- Poor overhead form: Incorrect form or body position can increase stress on shoulder and elbow.
- Single-sport specialization: Some athletes train for and play one sport year-round or on multiple teams at once, increasing overuse.
- Overuse at young ages: Young people have bones and muscles that are still developing.
Overhead motion is more common than many people realize.
Even athletes who cross-train may be overusing certain motions.
- Swimming: Competitive swimmers may rotate their arms 2,500 times per day in training.
- Volleyball: High school participation has grown by 14% in the past decade. Spike speed can exceed 50 mph, more at higher levels.
- Baseball and softball: Pitchers are at highest risk, but fielders also suffer injuries.
- Cross-fit: Participants frequently engage in overhead weightlifting that can strain joints.
Tips for overhead athletes
- Mix up sports
- Take time to recover between seasons
- Get evaluated if you experience pain
- Focus on good mechanics
- Play in multiple leagues for the same sport during the same season
- Play overhead sports with back-to-back seasons
- “Power through” shoulder or elbow pain
- Suddenly change exercise routines
- Train more hours per week than your age for one sport
CONSIDER A CONSULTATION FOR MULTI-SPORT ATHLETES OF ALL LEVELS
A professional evaluation can help athletes improve their form which may reduce injury risk and provide guidance on how to recover and train between and during seasons.
Produced by Mayo Clinic. Sources: mayoclinic.org; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; statista.com; reuters.com.
Infographic available on the News Network.