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Orthopedic/Injuries>>Shoulder Care for the Paddler - 1/4/2007

Shoulder Care for the Paddler

By Ginger Lockette

I. Shoulder Anatomy:

Rotator Cuff- composed of 4 muscles: supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis. These are the dynamic stabilizers for the shoulder, that is, they have to all function correctly or the shoulder will not work properly and injury will likely occur.

Deltoid Muscle- Function is to elevate the arm but requires the synergy of the rotator cuff to lift arm and clear the “ledge”

Scapular Muscles-Trapezius, rhomboids, levator scap, serattus anterior, latissimus (indirect)

II. Shoulder Function as it relates to Paddling

III. Common paddling Injuries of the shoulder:

Impingement syndrome- one of the rotator cuff tendons gets impinged, usually the supraspinatus causing swelling, pain and loss of range of motion. In the paddling stroke, this could occur with too high top hand and inadequate twist or the “spearing” technique.

Rotator Cuff Strain or Tear-may occur from imbalance in rotator strength/flexibility, severe impingement or overuse

Subluxation/Dislocation- Can occur with overhead motion of unexpected force or if pectoralis and latissimus are not strong enough to provide necessary support to capsule.

Trigger Points- Painful areas in muscle tissue usually due to abnormal stress on the muscle attachment to the bone


I. Flexibility: Adequate shoulder flexibility is important to help prevent injuries. Paddling has a lot of concentration on the anterior shoulder and chest musculature so its important to stretch these muscles to maintain flexibility (Pect)

II. Balanced Strength: Most paddlers have strong shoulder internal rotators but weak external rotators, strong upper trap but weak lower traps. Additionally, to stabilize our bodies in the boat and apply our power to the water, we have to have strong transverse abdominus and overall CORE strength. Fatigue and soreness in low back with paddling may be attributed to weakness in the CORE musculature.

III. Posture: in and out of the boat: It’s a very significant cause of pain and poor performance in paddling believe it or not! Now that you understand the anatomy of how the shoulder works, you can see if you sit in a slouched position in the boat with your shoulder blades away from your spine, this decreases the already limited space you have between your rotator cuff tendon and the “ledge” we talked about. IF you paddle with this rounded posture your chances are good for getting impingement and not to mention you can’t utilize your core strength if your posture is off.

If you do injure your shoulder or experience pain:

ICE right away: 15-20 min 3-5 times per day for analgesic as well as to decrease inflammatory process and protective spasms.

Ibuprophen to control inflammation and pain

See your physician for evaluation if pain is severe or if you have any loss of motion.

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