When you think about sports injuries, football, basketball, or soccer probably come to mind. All three of these sports require that players put their bodies on the line play after play. Contact is common, and, in the case of football, tackling is an integral part of the sport.
But when you think of common sports injuries, only one sport has a repair surgery literally named after a player. Tommy John surgery, named after a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, is used to repair one the most common sports injuries — a torn ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow..
And when baseball players aren’t getting their elbows repaired with Tommy John surgery, they're usually hurting somewhere else. Soft tissue injuries are on the rise in the major leagues and show no sign of stopping. Baseball players put their bodies through a lot of sudden motion — pitchers whip balls at 90+ miles an hour, and sluggers make huge swings for the fences. It’s easy to see why shoulder injuries are so common.
Are you or someone in your family suffering from shoulder pain that may be related to baseball or another throwing sport? If so, come see our team at Steven E. Nolan, MD. Dr. Nolan is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon with over 20 years of experience and has received numerous top-surgeon awards during his career. Here, he highlights the most common shoulder injuries in baseball players and what they need to know.
SLAP is an acronym for superior labrum anterior and posterior. The labrum is a thick band of tissue that sits in the shoulder joint and gives it stability. It’s at the junction of your upper arm bone, collar bone, and shoulder blade, where it plays a large role in helping the arm bone and shoulder blade connect. SLAP tears often occur with dislocation of the shoulder.
The labrum can tear from overuse, which can happen with baseball players at any position. Pitchers, however, are especially prone to SLAP tears from the rapid or forceful movement of the arm when it is above the level of the shoulder.
Rotator cuff injuries
Where the labrum sits between the upper arm bone and shoulder blade, the rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons that surrounds the shoulder blade, effectively pulling the upper arm bone into the cup of the shoulder blade. It’s the main muscle group at work when you raise your arm above your head.
When your rotator cuff tears, you may have trouble reaching behind your back and will feel a dull ache deep in your shoulder. The placement and type of pain can make it difficult to sleep. Like SLAP tears, rotator cuff injuries most often result from repetitive shoulder motions. The rotator cuff wears down over time and is more likely to impact senior league players than little leaguers.
Shoulder tendonitis is inflammation of the rotator cuff or biceps tendon. The inflammation, which can range from mild to severe, occurs when the rotator cuff or biceps tendons are repeatedly pinched by other structures in the shoulder. As with SLAP tears and rotator cuff injuries, shoulder tendonitis starts with, and is often worsened by, repetitive motions that put the arm above the shoulder.
Those suffering from shoulder tendonitis have pain or tenderness in their shoulder and struggle to hold their arm in certain positions. Tendonitis is typically easy to treat, especially if caught early. Rest and steroids shots will get your shoulder feeling better.
Minor rotator cuff injuries may heal with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy. If these treatments don’t improve the tear or if the injury is more severe, Dr. Nolan may recommend surgery, which can be done through shoulder arthroscopy. This minimally invasive method requires only a small incision, which minimizes scarring and quickens healing time to just four to six weeks. It’s the same story with SLAP tears — Dr. Nolan uses only a small incision to repair the labrum and get you back on the field in no time.
Shoulder injuries can be painful, but Dr. Steven E. Nolan is an expert at treating orthopedic injuries and can get you off the bench. To learn more about shoulder injuries, request an appointment online or over the phone with Steven E. Nolan, MD, today.