Shoulder To Shoulder
The rotator cuff is a collection of muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint. These muscles keep the upper arm in the socket while allowing lifting, stretching, twisting. For athletes, strong shoulders are crucial for throwing, catching, and overall performance. The shoulder is a part of virtually all movement, which leaves the rotator cuff at risk for injury. While injuries won’t happen to everyone, there are 4 risk factors to consider.
1. Check your family history
Research shows that rotator cuff injuries can run in the family. However, the root cause is more firmly connected to underlying arthritis, which patients can pass down. Over time, wear and tear increase the risk of rotator cuff injuries or tears. A family history check is the easiest way to confirm the risk of rotator cuff tears.
2. Engaging in high contact sports
Athletes or those that play recreational sports are already at risk for injuries. High contact sports, however, increases the risk of rotator cuff tears. Injuries are more common in sports such as golf, basketball, football, and baseball. In a group of senior athletes, 1 in 20 athletes reported rotator cuff injuries or shoulder pain. For younger athletes, this rate is even higher.
3. Work injuries lead to tears
Some jobs, including factory operators, painters, carpenters, and construction workers, also pose a long-term risk of injury. The injury occurs through repetitive tasks that can lead to micro-tears. These micro-tears often go unchecked, and workers often suffer more severe injuries or larger tears. However, this happens over time and can be prevented if recognized early.
4. Age matters
Due to general wear and tear, rotator cuff injuries are more frequent with age. Statistics show that almost all cases of rotator cuff tears happen after age 50. Ligaments, joints, muscles, and tendons tend to get weaker, losing flexibility with time. Like work injuries, actions in younger patients lead to more damage in the later years.
Can you prevent injury?
Risk factors like age and genetics do not guarantee a tear will happen. However, some simple lifestyle habits can prevent future injury. Some simple strategies include:
- Stretching before work or sports.
- Performing exercises to strengthen the shoulder.
- A good posture can reduce the chance of injury by putting less strain on the rotator cuff.
- Avoid laying on the side when sleeping or any position that overextends the shoulder.
- Smoking and excessive alcohol may lower blood circulation to the rotator cuff.
- For athletes, a cold compress after sport reduces injury.
With the proper care, rest, and exercises, rotator cuff tears are avoidable. If the pain or symptoms persist, especially with age, see a doctor immediately.
Know your risks
A rotator cuff tear can be painful and reduce mobility. If left untreated, the symptoms can impact the quality of life. The risk factor for rotator cuff tears is highest with age. Genetics, coupled with sport or repetitive work, increases the risk. If these risks apply, look for the signs and explore treatment options with a doctor.
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