For cricket fans (and yes, I’m one) the start of the cricket season is one of my favourite times of year.
As a Physiotherapist (and I’m one of those, too) it’s one of my busiest. One of the most common workload boosters being a nasty little condition called Thrower’s Shoulder.
Whether you’re turning out for a club, the pub side, or just playing hit-and-run with the kids in the park, it’s one of the most common cricketing injuries (though in truth throwing a tennis ball for the dog can bring it on equally easily).
It’s usually felt on a hard throw, particularly if you haven’t thrown a ball for a while, and is characterised by a sharp pain inside the shoulder. Whilst it’s acute, it only lasts a few seconds, but repeated often enough, it will create an actual injury.
Otherwise known as impingement syndrome, Thrower’s Shoulder is the result of the supporting tendons of the shoulder being pressed up against the top of the shoulder. Over time this will create inflammation or swelling and become painful in the front or side of the shoulder. Normally, along with the pain there is also significant functional limitation (generally worse lifting an object away from the body or an overhead task).
Left untreated, the inflammatory process will form scar tissue around the tendon and the injury will re-occur, eventually creating a chronic process or worse still, tearing the Labrum (the cartilage of the shoulder).
Once this happens, it will become harder to manage conservatively; patients often require multiple steroid injections or worse still surgery.
No-one wants that. So whether you’ve already felt your first few twinges, or you want to help ensure an injury-free summer playing at long leg for the Three Horseshoes, here are a few simple exercises to keep your shoulder and throwing arm mobile and pain-free.
For all the following exercises, start by squeezing the shoulders back and down, and maintain this posture throughout.
Most require the use of therabands, available from your physio or a good sports store. They’re colour-coded for resistance (going light to heavy, it’s yellow, red, green, blue, black), choose the one that you can complete 10 reps with whilst maintaining perfect posture and form.
1. Shoulder posture
a) Pectoral stretch:
Pull back as far as you can to open the front of the shoulder as far as possible, hold for 30sec.
b) Shoulder retraction:
Hang theraband over a door handle and take hold of either end, palms forwards, elbows straight, pressing towards the floor. Pull back and hold 5 secs.
2. External rotation
Keep your elbow tucked in by your side, turn out (1sec), return slowly (3sec).
3. Internal rotation
Keep your elbow tucked in by your side, turn in (1sec) and return slowly (3sec).
4. Cross body adduction
Attach band to the top of a closed door. Pull down until your arm is by your side (1sec) and slowly return (3sec).
5. Cross body abduction
With the band attached under your opposite foot, keeping the hand palm down, lift up to 90 degrees (1sec) and slowly return (3sec).
Attach band at doorknob height. Pull back (1 sec) and release (3 sec).
7. Modified dips
Arms tight to your sides, push your weight through your hands (to unweight, but not lift, your bum), hold 10 secs then release.
NB These exericses are part of a programme developed in the USA for throwing sports. The full programme can easily be found online, however this will often need modifying for your specific functional requirements, so I’d suggest talking to your local Physio first.