Rotator cuff injuries - Gymnastics Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries are the most common cause of shoulder pain.

What is the rotator cuff?

The rotator cuff is responsible for protecting the shoulder joint; it is composed of four muscles and assists with movement as well as support.

Causes of rotator cuff injuries

Most rotator cuff injuries are caused by overuse; this is usually due to the continuous completion of activities which apply pressure to the shoulder joint and the surrounding connective tissue and muscles.

Types of rotator cuff injury

The most common rotator cuff injuries are rotator cuff tendonitis and impingement syndrome. Rotator cuff tendonitis occurs when the tendon around the rotator cuff becomes irritated and swollen. Impingement syndrome usually occurs as a result of rotator cuff tendonitis; as the tendon swells, the space available for it to move around becomes smaller and it often becomes trapped in the subacromial space (the area underneath the bony projection at the top of the shoulder joint).

Symptoms of rotator cuff injuries

Common symptoms include localised pain, which may sometimes spread to the back and arms and may intensify when the arms are raised above the head. Other symptoms include swelling and a more limited range of movement around the joint.

Treatment for rotator cuff injuries

In most cases, rotator cuff injuries will be treated by immobilising the affected joint, applying ice and taking medication to reduce swelling and ease pain. The shoulder should be rested until the injury has healed sufficiently. In some cases, surgery may be carried out to prevent injury in the future and ease persistent symptoms.

Preventing rotator cuff injuries

The most effective means of preventing a rotator cuff injury is resting the shoulder between training sessions. All gymnasts should also complete a thorough warm-up and cool down to enable the body to prepare for exercise and recover afterwards. Physiotherapy will help to increase the range of movement and flexibility in the joint and will help to condition the shoulder, which will reduce the risk of injury in the future.

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