OFF THE CUFF: Shoulder Instability Can Be A Pain
By Nick Bohanan
It’s no secret that bowling is a physically taxing sport. It involves a heavy object, requires a good degree of athleticism and puts your body through repetitive motion, all of which can lead to injury if you aren’t careful.
One of the more common ailments with bowlers is shoulder pain. Your shoulder is a ball-and-socket joint and a number of the small muscles that act on the shoulder are attached to the shoulder blade. In order for those muscles to work effectively, the shoulder blade has to move in a certain motion. These stabilizing muscles make sure the shoulder blade locks in place when it’s supposed to and allows it to move freely when it’s supposed to.
There also are four small muscles that make up the rotator cuff. Those muscles are important in accelerating and decelerating your arm, particularly in an overhand motion. Overuse of the rotator cuff in overhand motions, like throwing a baseball, can lead to muscle tears, but that does not appear to be a major issue with underhand motions.
On the follow-through in bowling, these muscles actually pull down on your arm to regulate how far your arm will go. They help anchor the arm down. People who have weak shoulder stabilization muscles don’t get that “anchoring down” from the muscles, and the muscles aren’t as efficient. That can affect the tendons and nerves under the collarbone, causing an impingement or inflammation in the joint. That makes it difficult for bowlers to get their arm all the way up. Getting full extension without impingement takes stable muscles, and the best way to strengthen that area is by doing the “I, Y and T.”
All three of these exercises start with your stomach over the top of a stability ball (also called a physio ball). Lengthen your legs and stretch your heels behind you. Your hands should be under your shoulders. Without arching your lower back, perform the following exercises:
Slowly bring both arms overhead and in line with your torso, or the “I” position. Keep your arms straight out ahead of your body, with your thumbs pointed toward the ceiling. Focus on squeezing the shoulder blades together as much as possible. Feel them pinch. Hold that position for five seconds.
Slowly bring your arms overhead into a “Y” position. Again, thumbs up. Squeeze your shoulder blades, and hold that position for five seconds.
Slowly bring your arms out to your sides into a “T” position. Once again, thumbs pointed to the ceiling, squeezing your should blades together. Hold for five seconds. Repeat this sequence 6-10 times. As you become more comfortable, hold small weights (1-5 pounds) in your hands when doing these exercises.
— Nick Bohanan is United States Bowling Congress Sports Performance Specialist.
Permission granted by USBC/Luby Publishing