SCINQ Guide to Baseball Injuries: Rotator cuff strains


Rotator cuff injuries are common among Major League pitchers. The human body can only take so much. It has its limits. Throwing pitches challenges those limits on a regular basis. While a lot of attention tends to focus on the elbow, in particular ulnar collateral ligament damage, other parts of the body also suffer significant injuries as well.

First, what is a rotator cuff anyways? The simple answer is that it consists of a group of muscles linking the chest and the arm and serve as stabilizers to the shoulder socket after a drastic movement. Think of them as anti-lock brakes for a pitching arm. They consist of the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapular, and teres minor muscles. Rotator cuffs also rely on the muscles in the shoulder blade.

In general, risk factors for rotator cuff injuries include age, occupation, and fa,ily history.


A dull pain deep in the shoulder, loss of sleep due to discomfort when applying pressure to injured shoulder, arm weakness.


A physical exam is the most common form of diagnosis. The doctor will put pressure on the shoulder, test arm movement, and arm strength. In some cases, x-rays, ultrasounds, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used to determine the severity of the injury.


Normally, rehab from a rotator cuff injury consists of a moderately lengthy period of rest, aka “shutting it down.” Pain relief injections are sometimes used. More serious injuries require surgery including arthroscopic tendon repair, open tendon repair, tendon transfer, or shoulder replacement.


After healing completely and the shoulder begins to show improvement, strength exercises for the rotator cuff as well as scapular muscles begin. Next stage includes a light throwing program. If able to throw, the pitcher moves into the bullpen followed by simulated games and rehab starts.

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