Shoulder injuries are common in athletes, especially those requiring overhead repetitive movements at high velocity and extreme range of motion. For example, shoulder injuries account for 19% of injuries to baseball players and nearly 40% of injuries to swimmers. Because a shoulder injury can sideline an athlete and even prematurely end their season, a current trend in sports medicine is to find ways to prevent shoulder injuries in the first place.
A systematic review conducted in 2022 looked at 25 studies conducted between 1970 and 2018 to uncover common risk factors for shoulder injuries among athletes from a variety of sports including volleyball, handball, basketball, swimming, water polo, badminton, baseball, and tennis. In the final analysis of the review, the authors concluded that prevention programs should focus on strengthening the rotator cuff muscles and maximizing shoulder range of motion.
In fact, another literature review found that a pre-season range of motion evaluation may help identify athletes at risk for a shoulder injury during the coming season. The review included 15 studies involving a total of 3,313 collegiate or Olympic athletes from sports with overhead shoulder movements such as baseball and swimming. The results indicated that the risk for shoulder injury was greatest for swimmers whose external shoulder rotation range of motion fell outside of the 94-degree to 99-degree range. For baseball players, especially pitchers, an external shoulder range of motion difference between the throwing and non-throwing arm below five degrees was associated with a two-fold greater risk for shoulder and/or elbow injury.
As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. So if you participate in sports that include overhead movements, schedule an appointment with your doctor of chiropractic before the season starts so they can evaluate you to uncover any current conditions that may lead to issues during competition as well as instruct you on ways to augment your pre-season training regimen to maximize the function of your shoulder, including its external range of motion.