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Common injuries & chiropractic care for shoulder-dominated sports
May 26, 2017 | by Dr. Erik Yuill

Repetitive strain injuries in the shoulder and elbow are common in all shoulder-dominated sports, including swimming, volleyball, baseball, basketball, Frisbee, badminton and tennis, just to name a few.

This article will take you through a few of the common injuries, why we get them, and how chiropractors can help with recovery.


Due to the biomechanical nature of many types of overhand and underhand movements in sport, certain muscle groups are predisposed to becoming over stressed.

If you take swimming for example, high level athletes can train upwards of 20 to 30 hours a week in the pool. In a single season they can log as many as 1,000,000 stroke repetitions (shoulder revolutions). This can lead to wearing of the body’s tissues, causing repetitive stress injuries.

If certain muscles and tendons supporting the shoulder joint are weak, tight, imbalanced or dysfunctional, this can also cause joint instability. Joint instability mixed with repetitive stress can lead to more serious shoulder injuries such as shoulder impingement syndrome, subacromial bursitis, rotator cuff tendinosis, and labral tears.

Another example is the backhand and forehand motion often seen in racket sports. Powerful backhand movements require a large amount of external shoulder rotation. This movement repeated over and over leads to aggravation of the external rotators of the shoulder rotator cuff (infraspinatus and teres minor), which can lead to strains and tendonosis of these muscles.

Alternatively, forehand movements required a large amount of forearm muscle contraction. The force of the contraction causes increased stress on the forearm flexor muscles.  This can also result in pain and discomfort at the inside of the elbow.

It is important to understand that there are various anatomical structures and numerous conditions that can also contribute to an athlete’s shoulder pain:

  • Cervical spine: Disc injury and spondylosis could impinge on nerve roots and manifest as complaints in the shoulder area.
  • Brachial plexus: Impingement on the first rib or against muscles can results in shoulder and arm symptoms in overhead athletes.
  • Acromioclavicular joint: Degenerative osteophytes can result in impingement on underlying rotator cuff tendons.



Photo: Chiropractor Dr. Erik Yuill with the SFU swim team in March at the NCAA Div. 2 Nationals Festival in Alabama

As instability and muscular imbalance of the shoulder joint are the primary cause of many common shoulder complaints, treatment should be directed towards correcting these underlying dysfunctions instead of only focusing on the secondary symptoms.

Chiropractors can play a significant role in both the diagnosis and recovery. We use a variety of techniques and therapeutic modalities to facilitate healing, breakdown scar tissue and restore optimal function.

Manual therapy including Active Release Technique (ART) and fascial release can be used to treat the aggravated shoulder muscles. This is combined with corrective exercises to improve muscular imbalances and improve movement patterns.

For injuries relating to nerve compression, shoulder impingement syndrome, and tennis elbow, chiropractors can use joint mobilizations in combination with pain relieving modalities to treat the injured tissues causing tension on the nerves and vascular tissues responsible for numbness and pain.

Chiropractors at Fortius also work closely with our integrated team of Sports Medicine physicians, physiotherapists, massage therapists, physiatrists, strength and conditioning coaches, physiologists, biomechanists and dietitians to optimize your outcomes.​



For more information about what chiropractors at Fortius can do for your sport injuries, visit the chiropractic page on the Fortius Website or call 604.292.2501.