Boxing & Shoulder Injuries

The repetitive punches that a boxer throws during training sessions can lead to injuries of the shoulder involving muscles, ligaments and tendons. Ignoring the pain or “playing through” a shoulder injury and treating it as second nature to your sport can lead to further degeneration of the injured tissues. Orthopaedic surgeons group shoulder problems into two groups; those caused by the instability or dislocation of one or more of the joints of the shoulder or impingement, the result of excessive rubbing of the shoulder muscle against the top part of the shoulder blade.

Young woman practicing her boxing technique with a trainer. (Image: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images)

Types

While impingement issues plague boxers, the most common types of shoulder injuries are due to instability or weakness of the muscles that compose the rotator cuff. These muscles are responsible for keeping your upper arm bone in the socket as you move your arm. With missed punches, the ball of your shoulder joint may slip partially out of the socket -- subluxing, or completely out of place -- dislocating.

Symptoms

When a boxer experiences an injury of the rotator cuff whether instability or impingement related, the ability to hold the hands up, throw or block a punch will be affected. As you participate in drills you may feel as though the joint is slipping out of place and can suffer from pain in the shoulder, inflammation as well as a greatly reduced range of motion.

Treatment

Immediately after sustaining a shoulder injury you should rest the shoulder, and immobilize the arm and apply ice to the area. Anti-inflammatory medications are often suggested to reduce any swelling. Seek the advice of a medical professional before returning to boxing to avoid any further injury to the shoulder joint.

Prevention

Stretching the shoulder can help prevent shoulder injuries in boxing. To stretch the shoulder and rotator cuff, muscles cross the right arm over the chest and hold in place with the left arm by bending the arm up at the elbow. Strengthening of the rotator cuff is used during a rehabilitation program as well as being used to prevent shoulder injuries as well. Common exercises are internal or external rotations of the shoulder using resistance bands. To perform an internal rotation, bend the arm of the injured shoulder to a 90 degree, and angle and rotate the shoulder inward while holding a band.

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