SURF SHOULDERS – Shoulder Impingements and Injuries in Surfing

by Derek Dodds September 30, 2016

By WT friend Michelle Drielsma of fluidsurfer.com

SURF SHOULDERS – SHOULDER IMPINGEMENTS AND INJURIES IN SURFING

Swimmer’s or Surfer’s Shoulder is a common condition affecting both competitive and recreational swimmers and surfers. It is basically an overuse injury which results in shoulder impingement or rotator cuff type symptoms.

HOW WE GET IT

The action of paddling in surfing strengthens the larger muscles around the shoulder, some of the major ones taxed being the pec major, pec minor, deltoids, upper trapezius, levator scapulae, lats and serratus posterior. These muscles when strong relative to their opposite acting muscles tend to apply upward force on the arm bone, migrating it north toward the bone above. The rotator cuff muscles when strong will apply a downward force on the ball of the arm bone.

Because of regular paddling we tend to become strong in the muscles that apply this upward force and relatively weak in the rotator cuff muscles that apply downward force. This can result in the ball of the arm bone sliding upwards in the shoulder joint. Impingement Syndrome occurs when there is abnormal contact between the rotator cuff muscles and the roof of the shoulder (acromion). Normally, a sac of tissue (bursa) sits on top of the rotator cuff, allowing the muscles to glide smoothly as the shoulder moves in different directions. When the arm is raised, the space between the rotator cuff and acromion becomes smaller. There is usually enough room in the shoulder joint for this to occur without pain. With repeated paddling, irritation and damage to the rotator cuff can occur and the bursa can swell. This decreases the space in the shoulder and compresses the rotator cuff muscles, causing pain.

A subtype of impingement is called internal impingement. This occurs as a result of imbalanced forces in the shoulder capsule, which is a fibrous tissue. In some people, the front part of the capsule is too loose, or unstable, and the back part is way too tight. This results in an imbalance of forces across the joint, especially with overhead stuff like paddling. Abnormal contact between the rotator cuff muscles and the back part of the capsule occurs, damaging the rotator cuff, capsule, and labrum and ultimately causing pain.


If this impingement is allowed to go on for an extended period of time it can cause small tears in the rotator cuff tendons, reduce blood supply and important nutrition to the shoulder joint.

Muscular imbalance is a key problem, but also so can be restricted mobility in the thoracic spine, neck, hips and shoulders. Paddling places a massive amount of stress on the rotator cuff in general, they need to work their derrière’s off to keep up with the stronger muscles that surround them. The freestyle and paddling strokes result in overdevelopment of both the shoulders internal rotators (subscapularis), compared to external rotators (infraspinatus) and the anterior chest wall musculature (pectoralis major and minor) relative to the posterior wall scapular stabilisers (rhomboids, levator scapuli, serratus anterior and middle/lower trapezius).

Rotator cuff injury is a continuum beginning with impingement and progressing to a cuff tear. The cuff tendons have areas of low blood supply, making healing more difficult after injury. As a result, the tendons degenerate with time. This is why most tears occur in late middle age.

SURF SHOULDERS – SHOULDER IMPINGEMENTS AND INJURIES IN SURFING

OTHER AREAS AFFECTED THAT AFFECT THE SHOULDER THAT MAY NOT HAVE CROSSED YOUR MIND

Surfing creates tight hip flexors.

The hip rotates toward the back foot and this over time creates imbalanced loading through the spine, hips, knees, ankles.

Tension created by imbalances in the hip cause core instability; which affects your surfing and just about everything else!

Increased muscle-shortening keeps the right shoulder (natural footed) under stress and out of
alignment, decreasing its flexibility, coordination, and strength.

Muscle imbalances from being right-handed causes the right hip to draw upward as the right shoulder is pulled down, creating ongoing stress that over time affects all of the joints in the body.

The neck, chest, and the internal rotator muscles of the shoulders all shorten and limit normal range of motion.

Diagnosis

Pain at the front or back of the shoulder during or after surfing, especially when you lift your arm to paddle.

Often rounded shoulders and slight winging of the shoulder blades.

Pain in lifting the arm straight up and straight out to the side.

Shoulder instability.

Treatment

Treatment involves restoring softness to overly tight muscles (therapist, deep sports muscle therapy, trigger point release, muscle corrective therapy), flexibility in tight muscles/fascia, ensuring optimal mobility in the neck, upper back and hips, and strengthening the rotator cuff as well as weak opposing muscles.

Ideally these prehab or rehab exercises, stretches and muscle therapy should be part of the surfers training so as to prevent the condition in the first place. Learning correct paddling technique also helps to offset rotator cuff injuries. For surfers over 40, it is important to listen to your body. There is a difference in the pain we feel from muscle soreness and that from our joints. Respect the signals. It is important to rest and stretch the shoulder as needed to maintain shoulder health – especially if you want to keep surfing for life.

It’s all connected. For a lot of surfers, the front of our shoulders are very over used, while the back of the shoulder is not. There’s also a lot of funky stuff going on in other parts of the body from the ankle up.

See this post for some ideas on therapy, stretching and exercises –Shoulder Problems in Sport & Exercise – part two.

Check out FLUID SURFER for surfing shoulder stretches and mobility.




Derek Dodds
Derek Dodds

Author


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in Surfing Stoke

Top 50 Instagram Post IV
Top 50 Instagram Post IV

by Derek Dodds October 07, 2016

Continue Reading →

7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be A Happier Surfer
7 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be A Happier Surfer

by Derek Dodds September 14, 2016

Psychology today talks about something called dopamine, I am sure you have heard of it. In an article by Philip Newton titled From Mouse to Man, he describes dopamine as “a neurotransmitter, one of those chemicals that is responsible for transmitting signals in-between the nerve cells (neurons) of the brain.”

Continue Reading →

Top 50 Instagram Post Late August 2016
Top 50 Instagram Post Late August 2016

by Derek Dodds August 24, 2016

Continue Reading →

Wave Tribe Social Proof
Size Chart

Surfboard Leashes

You Break It We Replace It in First Year. 

Buy a leash closest to your board size—i.e. for 6'4 surfboard you need a 6' leash. 

All leashes are 7mm thick, competition leashes which are lighter/thinner 5.5 mm. 

Pioneer Day Boardbags - Fits One Surfboard

All boardbags have +2 inches. Thus a 6'6 board fit's perfectly in a 6'6 boardbag. All Pioneer bags have expandable fin gussets, so you can keep your fins on your board in the bag—or you can roll with glass-on fins.

Pioneer Sizes:

All bags have interior pockets (fins, leash and wax), bags fit industry standards. 

Our 8'6, 9'6 and 10' bags have fin slots and round noses. 

Pioneer bags also have an exterior pocket and zip all the way to the nose.

Travel Bags - Fits Two Surfboards

All Global boardbags have +2 inches, so if you buy a 6'2 boardbag, the real length is 6'4—thus you have a bit of room to play. 

Global Travel Bag Sizes:

Travel boardbags are 6'-8' inches deep to accommodate two boards—though you can travel with one in these bags without a problem—there are two interior pockets for leash, wax, and fins.

Surfboard Travel Bag Pockets Fin Wax Leash

Travel boardbags have two padded boards separators and two pockets for your gear. 

* Travel boardbags also have 13mm + 13mm of extra padding in the nose and tail.

Travel Bags with Wheels - Fits Two Surfboards

New in 2016 is the double travel bag with wheels. Sometimes you want a smaller bag with wheels, now you can have it. All Global boardbags have +2 inches, so if you buy a 6'2 boardbag, the real length is 6'4—thus you have a bit of room to play. 

Global Travel Bag Sizes:

Travel boardbags are 6'-8' inches deep to accommodate two boards—though you can travel with one in these bags without a problem—there are two interior pockets for leash, wax, and fins.

Wave Tribe Wheelie Surfboard Travel Bags

Travel boardbags have two padded boards separators and two pockets for your gear. 

* Travel boardbags also have 13mm + 13mm of extra padding in the nose and tail.

Boardbag Material & Hardware - All Bags

Side A of the bag is made from a strong density Rugged Eco Hemp exterior which is one tough fiber and naturally built to last with high impact padding protection with Rebound Foam Dynamics including open-to-nose technology.

Side B is the reflective (rental-car-roof-side) made from Reflective Energy Shield for "Cooler Surfboard Safeguard" protecting your surfboard from the sun's harmful rays made from an alloy-steel mesh weave.

All Sides are guarded by our Japanese Never-Rust-or-Break Nickel Platted Zippers streamline zipper trails and our trademarked Easy Flow Zip System.