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Elite Athletes and Average Joes - Overuse Injuries: August 2, 2012

Olympic athletes in any sport are finely tuned machines, trained to perform at their peak during the games.  Most of us will never get there, but we everyday athletes can learn something from Olympians when it comes to injuries.

Craig Moorhead has something in common with many of the world’s elite athletes.

“Well I don’t know about that, but yes, I understand what they’re doing now,” says Moorhead.

It wasn’t his performance on the field but its aftermath. Years of baseball resulted in torn labrum and rotator cuffs.

“You know just constant throwing. After a while, it just wears on you,” says Moorhead.

From Olympians to average Joes, athletes are crossing the line between peak performing and breaking down.

“Athletes tend to repeat certain movements over and over again, and that predisposes those particular joints to an overuse type injury,” says Dr. Fletcher Reynolds, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Overuse injuries are common in the shoulder affecting baseball, softball, football and volleyball players, in addition to swimmers. Studies found Olympic power lifters were hurt more from overuse than straining with heavy weights.

“The reason for the shoulder being injured frequently is because the shoulder is a very inherently unstable joint.  It has a very small socket that is surrounded by a cartilage tissue. It required extreme muscular contractions to hold the ball centered in the socket,” says Dr. Fletcher.

Young athletes suffer mostly bursitis, tendonitis and strains. Seasoned athletes experience tears. Cases like Craig’s require surgery.

“Shoulder surgery’s come a long way, say, over the last 20 or 30 years. We do almost everything now arthroscopically.  And that just means we do it through a series of holes,” says Dr. Fletcher.

The repair is only half the battle.

“A lot of what we do is education about the proper weight training, particularly light weight training, to specifically train rotator cuff muscle groups around the shoulder to help them stabilize it to prevent them from injuring it again,” says Dr. Fletcher.

It’s small movements like these that isolate the muscles and strengthen the shoulder. It worked wonders for Moorhead.

“Throwing-wise, my throwing is as good as it was when I was in my early twenties,” says Moorhead.

Whether it’s back in form or back in uniform, overuse injuries can be overcome.