What sports increase your risk of a Rotator Cuff injury?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

A rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that support the shoulder joint, allowing you to lift and rotate your arm.

Injury to the rotator cuff can occur with repetitive movements, overuse of the muscles and tendons, or when there has been trauma to the area.

Shoulder injuries in sports are fairly common, and some sports carry a greater risk of injury than others. However, there are steps you can take to help prevent a shoulder injury from occurring.

Common shoulder injuries in sport

Shoulder injuries are classified as acute or chronic.

An acute shoulder injury in sports is usually a tear or strain resulting from trauma or impact, such as falling awkwardly on your arm or colliding with an opponent. This type of shoulder injury may result in dislocation, fracture, a rotator cuff tear, or a labral tear.

Chronic shoulder injuries are typically caused by progressive wear and tear of the muscles and tendons, usually through overuse or repetitive movements, leading to muscle instability, tears, sprains and strains, bursitis, or tendonitis.

While some mild shoulder injuries may heal within a few weeks, a more severe injury, such as a dislocation or tear, can take several months to recover fully.

Signs and symptoms of a rotator cuff injury

When you’ve hurt your shoulder in an acute sports injury, you may experience sudden pain and discomfort that radiates down your arm and increases when you lift or lower your arm. You may also have limited shoulder movement.

If you have a chronic shoulder injury, you may experience similar symptoms, but the pain and discomfort may come on more gradually.

Some people with shoulder injuries may struggle to get comfortable in bed and may have difficulties doing daily tasks, such as getting dressed or combing their hair.

What sports have the most shoulder injuries?

Shoulder injuries are most common in sports that involve repeated overhead movements or require significant power from shoulder muscles.

Serving and hitting the ball in tennis, bowling in cricket, swinging in golf, and pitching in baseball require repetitive forceful shoulder movements that can impact the muscles and tendons over time.

Although swimming is a low-impact sport, the overhead arm movement involved in many strokes can also cause wear and tear.

The shoulder is also vulnerable to injuries in contact sports like rugby and hockey, and football.

Weightlifters and gymnasts can also be prone to shoulder injuries.

Aside from playing sports, a shoulder injury may also be more likely to occur as you get older, as ageing can cause tendons and muscles to degenerate. You may also be at greater risk if you have a manual job involving repetitive shoulder movements, such as construction, painting, or cleaning.

How do you prevent shoulder injuries in sports?

Although some activities carry more risk than others, there are many precautions you can take to help protect your shoulder from sports injuries, such as:

  • Wearing the appropriate safety equipment, especially in high-impact sports.
  • Warming up before exercising to increase blood flow to your muscles and joints and increase flexibility.
  • Stretching after your workout to help your muscles recover.
  • Using the correct form and maintaining good posture when performing overhead movements, lifting weights, or using the shoulder joint forcefully.
  • Undertaking a regular strength training program to target all your shoulder muscles, not just the ones you use regularly.
  • Varying your workouts to prevent overusing the same muscles.
  • Having regular rest days to give your muscles a break.
  • Seeking medical advice as soon as you experience pain or discomfort to prevent the injury from worsening.

Rotator Cuff Injury Treatment at Ramsay Health Care

If you sustain a shoulder injury from playing sports or other activities, Ramsay Health Care can provide you with prompt access to appointments so you can seek treatment as soon as possible.

We’re proud to work with leading physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons to offer you the holistic care and support you need at every step of your recovery journey.

Find out more about rotator cuff surgery with Ramsay, or contact us today to make an appointment with a member of our friendly and professional team.


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