Continuing on from lasts weeks blog, ‘What is the rotator cuff?’, this week we will discuss how the rotator cuff is important in sports involving overhead movements or throwing and how to rehabilitate a rotator cuff injury.
How important is my rotator cuff in sport?
Certain sports are more commonly associated with rotator cuff problems due the substantial load they place on these muscles. Particularly overhead sports such as tennis, swimming, cricket and other throwing sports, require the rotator cuff to not only be strong to stabilise the shoulder in these positions, but expose the rotator high velocities and load, often while counteracting the force of an opponent’s shot and difficult joint positions.
With a sub-optimally functioning rotator cuff, your ability to perform to the best of your ability will be negatively effected. Shoulder mobility is just as important as stability and strength in reaching your performance potential. Developing muscle ‘strength at length’ is a key component of both performance and injury prevention. This phrase means that any particular muscle is strong when it is in a stretched position – commonly when muscle tearing occur.
Furthermore, sports than require repetitive movements of the shoulder, such as bowling or batting in cricket, basketball shooting or passing, can create overuse injuries of the rotator cuff such as tendinopathies or tendinosis if left untreated.
What do I do to prevent injury or rehabilitate my rotator cuff?
Below are some basic exercises that target the rotator cuff and are suitable for most people without shoulder pain. If you do have shoulder pain you should seek the advice of a physiotherapist before starting these exercises as they might not be right for you.
- Keeping your elbow against your side, rotate your arm side to side against the resistance of the band 10x on each arm:
2. Keeping your arms straight and pulling them apart against resistance of the band, then moving your arms up and down above your head through their full range of motion 10x :
For all these exercises the focus is the same and it is important to maintain good form as first priority. If you cannot maintain good form whilst doing these exercises you can do more harm than good and the resistance, sets, or repetitions needs to be reduced.
How do I get started?
- Find the right resistance - these muscles are small and don’t need a lot of resistance to challenge them. If you load up too much you will encourage larger muscles to help out. This defeats the purpose. So, start out light and move from there.
- Draw your shoulder blade in towards your spine and slightly elevate/lift the shoulder. It is important to maintain this position the whole time.
- Stand with good posture. Have your knees slightly bent, feet hip width apart, back straight and head in neutral.
- Start on set of 10 reps and gradually build to 3 sets of 15 repetitions over the course of a few weeks.
For a more specific and targeted sports specific performance, prevention or rehabilitation program, book in to see a Physiotherapist or Exercise Scientist at to Back in Motion Aspendale Gardens.