Ask Dr. Pat · Fitness

Ask Dr. Pat: What Causes Shoulder Injuries? How Can I Prevent Them?

The good news is that women are becoming more physically active. However, prevention of injuries is understandably crucial for women to continue to participate in competitive sports like tennis. Exercise has tremendous health benefits and I encourage most of my patients to remain very active, unless they are over-training. The bad news is that participating in a high intensity activity can lead to injuries in those who have not done their homework before embarking on a strenuous weekend of physical activity.

Dr. James Wyss MD, is an Assistant Attending Physiatrist in the Department of Physiatry at the Hospital for Special Surgery. He specializes in the non-operative management and rehabilitation of common sports, musculoskeletal and spinal injuries. Dr. Wyss is also a member of the Women’s Voices for Change Medical Advisory Board. He offers this advice for prevention of injury for the weekend athlete, which aptly apply to the prevention of shoulder injuries.

  • Train to Play: This means taking time during the week to address all aspects of fitness that prepare us for the exciting weekend activities. These include strength training, especially of the core, flexibility training (hamstring, groin muscles and calf muscles are common areas of tightness), postural training, balance training and endurance training that we often challenge on the weekends with long runs and cycling.
  • Dynamic Warm-Ups: The days of touching our toes and counting to 20 before we play or exercise should have ended a long time ago. Passive stretching before exercise doesn’t prevent injuries and may decrease performance. Instead, you need to warm up your body and prepare it for the activity you are about to participate in. The reality is that whenever we use our upper bodies to do something, it will invariably involve the shoulder joint and musculature. Learning to relax your shoulders is the first step, and then doing a balanced set of exercises that enhances the structural integrity of the shoulders will help to make them move and feel better.Next time you are at a sporting event, look at how athletes warm up and prepare for their sport ahead of time.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Take in enough calories prior to your activities and hydrate well. Then make sure to address your nutritional and hydration needs after your activities to help your body recover.

Thanks for writing, Felicity. Your question is one shared by many  women in mid-life who want to continue active participation in competitive physical activities and avoid both down time and chronic pain.

Dr. Pat


Next week: Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, will demonstrate exercises to maintain strong and healthy shoulders.

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