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February 02, 2018

For those of us who have paddled or swam for most of our life, shoulder injuries are almost unavoidable. The wear and tear our shoulders take during the repetitive motion of paddling or swimming takes it toll. What can we do to avoid injury? Can we paddle or swim differently to change the alignment of our muscles and tendons? Are there specific stretches that we can do to help prevent pain? These are all questions that we have pondered periodically throughout our training years. Here are some tips to avoid pain, injury, and hopefully educate us about our shoulders and how they work.

 

PADDLE SCIENCE #3 –
SHOULDERS AND SUP

Words – Kate Starling
Photos – Nick Lloyd

If you’ve ever sustained a shoulder injury, you’ll know just how quickly it can stop you from getting out on the water. Shoulder injuries can commonly affect SUPers and are typically caused by the repetitive loading paddling brings.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body and allows you to move through a huge range of movement, far greater than any other joint in your body. However, as the shoulder is so mobile, maintaining stability at the shoulder is paramount. Shoulder stability is mainly provided by four rotator cuff muscles and their tendons which hold the head of the humerus into the shoulder socket: the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor.  When moving, the strength and balance between these muscles is critical to ensure that the humeral head remains central within its socket. However, habitual posture and repetitive movement patterns can lead to an imbalance between the rotator cuff muscles. If the muscles become excessively tight or change in strength, it can cause the humerus to deviate away from its central position resulting in shoulder pain and injury on movement.

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