What You Need to Know about Shoulder Injuries in Throwing Athletes

Throwing Injuries

Shoulder injuries commonly develop in throwing athletes who often rely on their shoulder joint for overhand throwing. This article will walk you through the nature of different shoulder injuries and how they can be treated. 

What shoulder injuries are common for throwing athletes?

Sports injuries can be debilitating. Throwing athletes often suffer from shoulder injuries that arise from strain on the shoulder joint after repetitive use. The shoulder is composed of a complex arrangement of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscle, which each play a role in the shoulder’s normal movement.

Repetitive throwing motions can strain the different parts of the shoulder and eventually lead to injury. Here are some of the common shoulder injuries that can emerge in throwing athletes: 


A SLAP tear occurs at the point where the bicep tendon connects to the top of the shoulder’s labrum. The labrum is a section of fibrous tissue that surrounds the shoulder socket and then connects to the tendon that extends from the bicep muscle. The labrum is sensitive to the repeated stress of throwing exercises and can tear if the shoulder is strained too far.

Internal impingement

When the thrower throws back their arm to gain momentum for an overhand toss, sometimes part of the shoulder can get pinched between the socket of the shoulder (the glenoid) and the head of the bone in the upper arm (the humerus), leading to significant pain and a limited range of motion. 

Rotator cuff tendinitis or tears

The rotator cuff is composed of four muscles that support and stabilize the shoulder. A thrower frequently relies on these muscles to power their throws, which means that overuse injuries are common in this area.

Over time, the tendon that connects the rotator cuff to the bone of the upper arm can become inflamed or irritated. In more extreme cases, it can begin to fray or eventually tear.

Sometimes, rotator cuff tendinitis can begin to irritate the neighboring bursa, which lubricates the shoulder joint and allows the rotator cuff tendons to move smoothly during normal motion. The inflammation of the bursa is known as bursitis.

What are the common symptoms of shoulder injuries in throwing athletes?

Many shoulder injuries produce similar symptoms that can interfere with the ability to throw. Common symptoms of shoulder injuries include

  •       Pain deep in the shoulder joint
  •       Stiffness
  •       Swelling
  •       Limited range of motion
  •       Instability in the shoulder joint
  •       Loss of strength in the injured shoulder
  •       Feeling of the shoulder joint locking up

How are shoulder injuries diagnosed in throwing athletes?

Shoulder injuries tend to be diagnosed by a physical examination that determines the source of pain, the remaining range of motion, and the strength of the shoulder joint.

To more closely examine the inside of the shoulder, the following imaging tests may be ordered:

  •       X-ray: to examine the shoulder bone for evidence of fractures
  •       MRI: to examine the integrity of surrounding ligaments, tendons, and soft tissue
  •       CT scan: to evaluate the structure of the shoulder bone
  •       Ultrasound: to examine muscle, ligaments, and tendons for strain or tears

How are shoulder injuries in throwing athletes treated?

Shoulder injuries can develop into more serious conditions if left untreated. Common conservative treatments include

  •       Resting and avoiding physical activity that further strains and weakens the injured shoulder
  •       Taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers to relieve pain and inflammation
  •       Trying physical therapy exercises that restore the shoulder’s strength and stability
  •       Receiving a cortisone injection into the injured shoulder to relieve inflammation

In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair an injured shoulder. Two common procedures are

  •       Arthroscopy: Using very small incisions, a surgeon can insert a camera into the injured shoulder joint and can then repair damaged ligaments, tendons, labrum tissue, or the rotator cuff.
  •       Open surgery: The damaged tissue, ligaments, or tendons are repaired through a single larger incision.

Treating shoulder injuries in throwing athletes at Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants

At Midwest Orthopaedic Consultants, our orthopedic surgeons and specialists know how frustrating and painful sports injuries can be. We are ready to help you get back to doing what you love.

Injured shoulders should be treated right away to avoid further complications. If you’re suffering from symptoms of a shoulder injury, book an appointment with us right away!

Only a doctor can tell you if you have this ailment. This is for informational purposes and should not be used in lieu of a doctor’s opinion.