Throwing in baseball and softball puts tremendous stress on the shoulder, regardless of the age of the athlete or the frequency of play. Although they are at higher risk, pitchers are not the only ones who suffer from shoulder pain after a practice or a game. Repetitive overhead throwing from the outfield or the catcher’s position can lead to chronic or acute injury, or even a progressive structural change. A common condition in which throwing athletes develop stiffness and pain is glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD), which involves restricted shoulder range of motion due to muscular and capsular tightness. Excessive GIRD is associated with overhead throwing and can predispose to injury.
To prevent loss of internal rotation in the throwing arm, it is important to stretch before every practice and game, regardless of whether you are a high school athlete or an older adult playing in a church softball league. If you are a high school athlete, see your athletic trainer to learn specific stretches to prevent stiffness from occurring. If you already suffer from shoulder pain, non-operative treatment is usually effective with a good physical therapy program. These programs work by halting and possibly reversing any damage to the affected shoulder. It is important not to let shoulder pain and stiffness persist as stiffness can lead to other issues such as bursitis and tendonitis.
– Joy L. Long, M.D.