Usually contact sports such as rugby, or gymnastics and horse riding where falling happens are responsible but excessive training such as in swimming can overwork the shoulder muscles and tendons and this is an overuse injury.
If the athlete has suffered a direct blow there will usually be sudden pain in the shoulder. A muscle or tendon maybe torn or partly torn and there may also be damage to the ligaments in the shoulder which will be a sprain. A torn ligament is a sprain whereby a torn muscle or tendon is a shoulder strain. The overuse injury starts with little pain but gradually gets worse as the athlete continues to use the shoulder.
After a direct blow the shoulder should no longer move as this will do further damage to the injured tissues. Ice should be applied over the injured area but protect the skin with a thin towel from the ice. This should be done every couple of hours for the first twenty four hours to reduce the swelling. This is because the ice stimulates the blood flow to and from the damaged area. Avoid heat penetrating creams as this will delay recovery. Medical advice should be sought as there is a risk that there may be a cracked or broken bone.
For overuse injury apply ice to sooth the area, stop the activity that is probably causing the problem and seek medical advice just in case the shoulder is inflamed and it is the inflammation causing the pain.
For overuse injuries the key to repetitive training without problems is to build up gradually. Avoid doing ‘extra’ training if you have had to miss a day or two and after intense training have a rest day. Warming up is essential and diet is also important for repetitive training. Enough energy foods should be eaten and never train on an empty stomach.
Firstly all equipment should be checked. Even racquets can break or straps on helmets can be broken but still used. Floors should not be slippery and football pitches should not be a mud bath. Sports shoes should not be worn after they have become old and worn even though athlete’s love their tastiest trainers or their luckiest ones. The support will not be adequate and there can be risk of tripping.
Always warm up adequately as this brings blood and oxygen to the joints and also lubricates them. Make arriving for you sport early enough to warm up as part of the session, as once injury has occurred the risk of further injury is higher. Warming up also enhances performance. If it is possible play for a shorter length of time to test out your shoulder for full movement and function without any problems.
Always consult your Doctor before performing any exercise or treatment. All information on the common sports injuries web site is provided as general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any sports injury.