An overhead athlete is someone who participates in a sport that requires overhead motions, such as pitching baseballs, throwing softballs, spiking volleyballs, serving tennis balls, swinging golf clubs, passing footballs, and launching javelins. During each of these activities, the arm must reach a unique position and then accelerate rapidly through a precise path. Not only must the arm coordinate its movement, but the forces from the feet through the core and pelvis must be transmitted through the hand in a seamless sequence. This intricate but explosive movement puts overhead athletes at risk of injury.
The shoulder’s bony anatomy is designed to allow for the great amount of mobility it needs to work properly. A “ball-and-socket” joint that sits much like a golf ball on a tee — with mismatch in size. Significant muscle motor control and strength are necessary to keep your shoulders functional and pain-free throughout overhead motions.
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The glenohumeral joint connects your upper arm bone (humerus) to your shoulder blade (scapula). The scapula moves on your rib cage to provide a stable foundation for arm movements. The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is where your collar bone (clavicle) meets your scapula. There is also a sternoclavicular (SC) joint where your collar bone articulates with your breast bone (sternum).
Efficient performance relies on appropriate coordination between these joints. Just as importantly, the arm’s mechanics are heavily influenced by the forces transmitted from the point your foot leaves or hits the ground in a throw, all the way until the ball or object is released. You need enough balance, hip range of motion, core control, and thoracic spine rotation in order to set the arm up for success. Putting all of these pieces together allows for a fast and accurate movement.
What happens when your body gets in the way of playing your sport?
While these symptoms are common with overhead sports, they are not normal and should be addressed by a qualified healthcare provider.
If this sounds like you, click here to find an Activcore location to get help now.
Most overhead athletes develop pain or sustain an injury at their shoulder and elbow, but that doesn’t mean the problem starts or ends there. For many athletes, the underlying cause of arm injury is a lack of coordination and control of movement of the structures closer to the body, including the shoulder blade, spine, pelvis and hips.
The ability to properly sequence how all of these pieces work together as a unit is called neuromuscular control. Many physical events (sports injuries, orthopedic surgeries, changes in the body as a young athlete grows, etc.) can disrupt your neuromuscular system. Over time, the brain loses its capacity to switch on the right muscles, at the right time, with the right amount of strength. A process known as neuromuscular de-activation.
As you lose muscle control, there's a tendency for the body to put abnormal stress on your joints in an attempt to maintain the same level of activity. This can often lead to a vicious cycle of pain, weakness and dysfunction.
Working with overhead athletes is typically not a big part of a physical therapist’s education. It is a specialization requiring much further study, training and practice following graduation.
Activcore physical therapists are uniquely qualified to assess and treat overhead athletes. At every session, you will receive 55 minutes of undivided attention from a physical therapist specializing in overhead injuries. This one-on-one approach allows your physical therapist to complete a comprehensive assessment, develop an individualized treatment plan, and get the most out of you at every visit for the fastest results possible.
The assessment involves your whole body to identify not only the site of injury, but the true source of your pain, weakness and dysfunction. Addressing the underlying cause is absolutely essential for healing an injury, preventing recurrence, and keeping you healthy and at a peak level of performance.
Activcore physical therapists are specially trained to know how to optimize the mind-muscle connection so that you can regain control of overhead motions for your sport and everyday life. A process known as neuromuscular activation.
They are experts in application of the Redcord suspension system, the preeminent tool for delivering neuromuscular activation. Each treatment consists of a series of tailored exercises intelligently designed to help you develop a smarter, balanced body. They integrate Redcord with other progressive methods — like manual therapy, postural restoration, and resistance training exercises — to get you back on the field as quickly and as safely as possible.
Once your pain has been addressed, you will have the opportunity to continue honing your movement through performance training at Activcore. Your therapist will communicate with a highly credentialed performance specialist about your specific injury and plan of care. Together, they will determine how to most effectively progress your routine for optimal motor control, strength, speed and agility.
You will feel the Activcore difference from your first visit. A highly personalized experience applying the latest breakthrough techniques in the treatment and training of overhead athletes — delivered by a passionate team of movement experts fully dedicated to getting you back to the sport you love to play.
In this day of specialties and specialists, I didn’t expect Activcore to consider the way my entire body worked. — Diane
Dr. Elizabeth Dalrymple is amazing!! The electronically stimulated dry needling and Redcord suspension therapy really helped improve my range of motion and relieve stiffness from an old rotator cuff injury! The whole staff is both knowledgeable and friendly. I recommend Elizabeth and Activcore to anyone. Thanks again! — Daniel H.
Activcore is unlike anything I have ever experienced. One patient, one provider, one hour – one at a time, every time. If you’re serious about your physical therapy and recovery, this is the only place to go! — Michael
I've only gotten excellent, effective care at Activcore. They have helped me through a long post-surgery rehab with skill and kindness that have been key to my recovery. — Joan