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After shoulder surgery, will playing baseball hurt it again?

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Physiotherapy in Calgary for Baseball

Q: My husband plays professional baseball. He had surgery last year on his shoulder and I'm worried that will always mean he might hurt it again. Can you tell me if this is true or not?

A: There have been many studies done on shoulder and elbow injuries among overhead throwing athletes. Arm injuries are the most common in this group of players. We do know that pitchers often have one group of muscles that are weak compared to another. For example there may be an imbalance between the external rotator muscles used to cock the arm back and the internal rotator muscles used to throw the ball forward.

In a recent study the effect of preseason shoulder strength was evaluated on the risk of in-season throwing-related injuries. As part of the study, they also looked to see if previous shoulder surgery put the players at increased risk for future injuries.

They measured the shoulder range-of-motion of 144 baseball pitchers. Baseball pitchers from both major and minor leagues were included. All measurements were taken before the season began for five years in a row (2001-2005). Then they compared strength data with in-season injuries to see if there was a link between the two.

As it turns out, a history of shoulder surgery did not mean the pitcher was more likely to reinjure that arm. But preseason muscle weakness in any player does point to the potential for increased risk of in-play shoulder injuries. Players who have surgery and complete a rehab program are usually only released to return-to-play when testing shows they are ready to compete again safely.

Reference: Ian R. Byram, MD, et al. Preseason Shoulder Strength Measurements in Professional Baseball Pitchers. Identifying Players at Risk for Injury. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. July 2010. Vol. 38. No. 7. Pp. 1375-1382.

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