March means the beginning of the high school boy’s tennis season in Kansas and Missouri! Combined with the weather beginning to warm up, tennis participation across age groups is going to really start to pick up. With our satellite clinic located inside of Overland Park Racquet Club, we see our fair share of tennis players of all ages and abilities. A study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that while most injuries in tennis are acute injuries to the lower extremity (think ankle sprains), that most chronic issues occur in the upper extremity! Of those chronic issues, approximately 25% of those issues were shoulder related, which held true across age groups. We have found with our tennis players that these issues arise from a combination of poor shoulder blade mechanics and poor mid back motor control. Today we are going to cover a way to improve both to keep your shoulders healthy!
We like to start with some sort of soft tissue work to get your muscles and joints loosened up. When addressing the mid back and shoulder blades, foam rollers tend to shine, but really you can use any tool you feel comfortable with. Spending a minute or two rolling on your mid back and shoulder blades will create a temporary increase in range of motion that we can take advantage of in our next step.
After we have created some extra range of motion with our soft tissue work, we want to reinforce that range of motion with a mobility exercise. There are a ton of exercise options to choose from in this case, but one of our favorites is what we call ‘mad cat/old horse’. Begin on all 4’s with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Extend your back upward into a “mad cat” position. Next, flex your back downward to sag into an “old horse” position. Beautifully simple and exceptionally effective!
Now that we have created more range of motion and reinforced it with our mobility exercise, we want to add some resistance. Similar to the mobility exercise, there are a ton of options for adding resistance to challenge the shoulder blades and mid back. Today we are going to cover a simple banded pull apart. Begin by gripping a light band approximately shoulder width apart at shoulder height. Simultaneously pull both arms apart until the band touches your chest. For maximal effectiveness, pull your shoulder blades together as the band gets closer to your chest, and actively reach your arms away from you at the start of the movement. This exercise teaches you to be aware of where your shoulder blades are in space while strengthening the new range of motion we created earlier!
This simple set of exercises is a great starting point for developing healthy shoulders, but it is far from a complete program for such a complex joint. Combine the complexity of the shoulder joint with the highly technical nature of tennis, and it becomes all the more important to have access to professional help. We recommend our friends at Overland Park Racquet Club for help with your tennis game, but any qualified professional you are comfortable working with will be helpful!
While we see a lot of issues with shoulder blade mechanics and mid back motor control in our clinic, we also see shoulder pain stemming from a host of other issues as well. The key to shoulder injuries is appropriate diagnosis by a professional (like the providers in our office). Once a diagnosis is made, an appropriate plan of care can be established emphasizing complete ranges of motion with stability throughout those ranges of motion. If you are experiencing persistent shoulder pain, call our office or schedule online today!