Wellness Wednesday: Common Shoulder Problems in Overhead Athletes


Loudoun County, Va. — Baseball pitchers, javelin throwers, lacrosse players…

What do all three of these athletes have in common? Each of their sports, as well as many others, require these athletes to constantly move their shoulder through the overhead throwing motion. Over time, this movement puts stress on the shoulder joint and can cause a number of different chronic injuries. So what are some common injuries seen in overhead athletes?

Labral Tear/ SLAP Tear

The shoulder joint consists of the head of the humerus sitting inside of the glenoid fossa (the shallow rim of your shoulder).

Think of your shoulder joint as a golf ball sitting on top of a tee. Between the humeral head and the fossa sits a ring of cartilage called the labrum, that helps provide stability to the shoulder joint.

Due to its location within the joint, the labrum can become damaged over time, especially when the shoulder is constantly being moved through this overhead throwing sequence. Labral tears are usually classified based on the location of the tear, with SLAP tears being one of the most common classifications.

So how do you know if you have a labral tear?

It usually present as deep pain within the shoulder, and people often describe a sensation of catching or locking within the joint.

How can you treat a labral tear?

While surgery is sometimes necessary, labral tears are most commonly treated conservatively with physical therapy. Physical therapy for this injury focuses on strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint in order to decrease pain and increase stability of the shoulder.

Biceps Tendinitis

Another common injury experienced by overhead athletes is biceps tendinitis. When the shoulder is overused, the muscles surrounding the shoulder often become imbalanced, putting abnormal stresses on the joint. One of the most common muscles to be affected by this imbalance is the bicep muscle. Over time, this abnormal strain placed on the biceps can cause the biceps tendon to become irritated and inflamed, making motions such as throwing especially painful and/or difficult.

What are some symptoms of biceps tendinitis?

  • Sharp pain in the front of the shoulder, especially when reaching overhead
  • Dull, achy pain in the front of the shoulder after activity
  • Pain radiating towards the neck or down the arm

How can you treat biceps tendinitis?

Biceps tendinitis can be easily treated with physical therapy. Treatment for this injury includes increasing the flexibility of the biceps muscle as well as strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint to correct muscular imbalance.

NOTE FROM OUR SPONSOR: Don’t wait any longer and run the risk of further injuring your shoulder. The more you continue to ignore these chronic overuse injuries, the longer it will take to recover from them. Here at Loudoun Sports Therapy Center, one of our expert physical therapists will evaluate your shoulder to determine the exact cause of your pain. We will then create an individualized treatment plan to correct your shoulder biomechanics, decrease your pain, and get you back to doing the things you love! Give us a call at (703)450-4300 to schedule your evaluation today. Don’t’ let your shoulder pain hold you back any longer!


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Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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