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Overhead / Throwing athlete injuries

The shoulder joint is a ball and socket joint. A 'ball' at the top of the upper arm bone (the humerus) fits into a 'socket', called the glenoid, which is part of the shoulder blade (scapula). The labrum is a ring of fibrous cartilage surrounding the glenoid which helps in stabilizing the shoulder joint. The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that attach to the bones of the shoulder joint providing movement and stability to the shoulder.

An athlete uses an overhead throw to achieve greater speed and distance. Repeated throwing in sports such as baseball and basketball can place a lot of stress on the shoulder leading to abnormal gliding of the joints of the shoulder, rotator cuff tears and labrum tears. Thrower’s shoulder occurs in athletes participating in sports that demand repetitive overhand motions such as tennis and volleyball.

Throwing shoulder injuries can produce pain, numbness, and reduction in the throwing velocity. When you present with symptoms of a throwing shoulder injury, your doctor will review your medical history, discuss your athletic activities and perform a thorough physical examination to examine the strength, range of motion, and stability of your shoulder joint. Imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI and CT scans may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

Your doctor may suggest conservative treatment such as rest, rehabilitation, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and a modification of activity along with stretching and strengthening exercises. If symptoms remain uncontrolled, surgery may be performed to repair the injured tissues, either through an open surgery or a less invasive technique (arthroscopy), where a camera and instruments are inserted through a narrow tube.

  • American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
  • American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
  • AANA: Arthroscopy Association of North America
  • Louisiana Orthopaedic Association
  • North Oaks Health System
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