Shoulder Injuries in Combat sports-Rehab

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Shoulder injuries can occur for a variety of reasons during grappling. If you land wrong on your shoulder you have a big knot on what was a normal AC joint. Wait too long to submit and now there’s an issue with the rotator cuff muscles, or ligaments, and tendons. Most of the time these injuries heal with proper conservative care and training. Remember skilled Therapeutic care is needed to safely take the patient through the stages as the athletes ability to progress will vary greatly

Shoulder injuries can occur for a variety of reasons during grappling. Coaches drill into young students’ heads to plant the arm to try to stop a fall. It inevitably happens though with someone and if enough force is placed into the joint during the fall we get a F.O.O.S.H injury. F.O.O.S.H means fall on outstretched shoulder and hand. This type of injury can cause damage to the hand, elbow, and shoulder. At the shoulder, it may cause a dislocation of the Glenohumeral joint or Acromioclavicular joint. Joint locks may also cause a dislocation at the shoulder but usually damage muscle, tendons, and ligaments prior and that pain usually has the practitioner tapping.

parascapular strengthening

Stabilization interventions are paramount after shoulder injury. Your shoulder is one of the most mobile joints in the body. The muscles, ligaments, and tendons did not assist in providing stability the shoulder would be in a world of trouble. Here are two simple exercises to help with keeping that shoulder stable. To provide adequate stabilization you need to build strength in every direction. During the early phases of fixing a dislocated shoulder, it is best to avoid stretching the muscles that were damaged and focus more on improving the concentric phase.

Shoulder stabilization

Mobility training should emphasize being able to move comfortably throughout the available range of motion. Then to progress towards getting full movement. Coinciding with improving motion it is paramount that strength is also increased in that gained range. It would be very detrimental to the practitioner’s progress if their arm can go to the extreme ranges of motion but said arm is a wet noodle. True it is beneficial to have increased flexibility. The rub is when the strength is not present trauma of some form will occur again.

shoulder strengthening exercises

Neuromuscular training occurs at the shoulder to improve the kinesthetic awareness of the shoulder. In wrestling, you have to be aware of where your body is in space. To execute a far ankle pick you have to be able to get the arm free and then move from sagittal to transverse plane while also changing levels and movement of the trunk. This is a confluence of skills that require hours and hours of training to be able to do correctly before injury and requires training post-injury to be able to do fluidly. Sometimes after injury those senses dull. Reaction times get slower, speed is reduced making it easier for you to get caught. Training must occur in multiple directions and not just in a linear plane. Coordination also needs to be improved so it will start at a slow speed with high reps and progress to the tempo of a match to get back ready to hit the mats. During this phase, we need to put weight through the joint with exercises like push-ups and planks and then more sport specific activities like spin-drills, bridge walks, and pummeling with a partner.

walking bridge to promote increased weight bearing through joint for neuromuscular re-education

The rehab program for a grappler will start like the shoulder program for any other patient. As the athlete gets better though there will be a shift to more sport-specific activity to help them get back onto the mats. Remember skilled Therapeutic care is needed to safely take the patient through the stages as the athletes ability to progress will vary greatly

Photo by Bruno Bueno on
Dr. Jordan

Dr. Marquis “Q” Jordan PT,DPT has been a Physical Therapist for 14 years. He is certified in return to work screens, work conditioning, functional capacity evaluations and concussion management. During his training he has participated in numerous sports symposiums and has advanced training in manual techniques. During his time as a Physical Therapist he has worked with many pro and amateur athletes including boxers, wrestlers and MMA fighters. He currently owns and operates Fearless Physical Therapy a mobile outpatient P.T. clinic in Hampton Roads VA. He is a native of Hampton VA and is a father of 3


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