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Shoulder injuries caused by overuse are common in young athletes – especially during winter

Impingement test

Impingement test

One of the most common injuries seen in my office is called impingement syndrome, otherwise known as an overuse injury to the shoulder. We see it about 10 times a week, especially in the winter season.

Yesterday I spoke with WAKR morning show host Ray Horner about this topic.  We talked about why it happens and what you can do to prevent it.

Below is an audio file and transcript of our discussion.

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HORNER: With us live right now is Dr. Joe Congeni from the Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital. Joe, good morning. What do you have for us this morning?

DR. CONGENI: Hey Ray. You know a lot of times we talk about new techniques and new technologies, but sometimes we just talk about real common things.

Today I want to talk about a common injury that we see so much at our office. We explain it and see it maybe 10 times a week and I just want to try and explain this (so) people (can) understand this problem — the shoulder injury.

During the winter season, the shoulder injury occurs a lot. This week the swimmers are down at regionals, a week away from state. This is very common in swimmers.

Dr. Joe Congeni

Dr. Joe Congeni

(It’s) very common in our kids who are in the weight room this time of year, lifting weights overhead. (They get) shoulder injuries from weightlifting.

Kids are still playing volleyball on the weekends. It’s called J.O. (Junior Olympics). They get this very commonly.

And guess who’s still inside throwing a baseball this time of year? Baseball players are still coming into our office with pitching pain in the shoulder, or even just throwing pain in the shoulder.

The best thing you can do for your kids that play is (to) take a season of the year off. The overuse injury rate just really increases if you go all 12 months. Take 3 months a season of the year off. Put the baseball down for 3 months. It’s the best thing you can do for your young athlete.

This problem with the shoulder Ray — it’s hard to explain in the office — so I want to try and explain it today. It’s called impingement syndrome and it’s the most common overload or overuse injury of the shoulder. It’s very common in young athletes and it’s very common in adults (both your and my age range).

What happens in impingement syndrome is there’s a bone on the top of the shoulder from the shoulder blade and a bone at the ball and socket. When you lift your arm to the side, that space narrows down. When it narrows down it continually pinches on several muscles and tendons that get caught in between these 2 bones.

One of my patients said this week — and I loved it — the bones are clamping down on the muscles. When you do that over and over again (either by) throwing, swimming or lifting, you begin to have significant pain and achiness in the shoulder. It’s treated differently in adults versus kids. It’s very common in adults who can’t lift their shoulder overhead. Maybe your doctor would say let’s do an injection into the bursa sac.

Injections don’t work as well in kids. They are unnecessary and can cause problems for the tendons in kids. We don’t do injections, but it’s really hard to treat because it takes some period of resting from that overhead activity and strengthening of the muscles behind the shoulder called the scapular stabilizers. It doesn’t get better overnight like a lot of overuse injuries.

So this problem called impingement, or pinching syndrome of the shoulder, is exceedingly common and I just wanted to describe it today. As we come down the stretch of winter, we see it a lot. But guess what? We’ll see it again in the spring and we’ll see it again in the summer. It’s just a very common problem in active people.

HORNER: Alright, good stuff Joe. Appreciate the time as always Joe. Catch up with you next week.

DR. CONGENI: OK Ray. Have a great week.

HORNER: You too. Dr. Joe Congeni, Sports Medicine Center at Akron Children’s Hospital, with us.

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About Dr. Joe Congeni - Director of Sports Medicine

Dr. Joe Congeni is the Director, Sports Medicine; Clinical Co-Director, Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine at Akron Children's Hospital. For the past 25 years, Dr. Congeni has been the “go to” source for national and local media looking for information about pediatric sports medicine.

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