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Tuesday 25 September 2012

The Shoulder Is Not What We Think It Is

Why are we spending so much time working and stretching the small and realatively fragile rotator cuff, when we could be spending our time strengthening the entire shoulder girdle?  A strong shoulder girdle provides the stability needed to keep our entire shoulder in the proper position.  It's correct positioning that keeps the shoulder healthy!

I know plenty of coaches who get this issue, but too many do not get it and make (seemingly) no effort to get ahead on the knowledge curve -- and help the athletes.

Oftentimes there is a disconnect between USS Club coaches and local High School coaches.  Many club coaches are fulltime professional coaches (we don't teach at the school or have another fulltime job), and because of this we have more time to study, read, learn, etc about swimming.  I don't fault High School coaches for having less experience, and to be clear: I believe a coach who coaches 'high school' only can get great results.  I've seen it happen!

My point is: we all need to be accountable for the health of our athletes.  If we share the athletes, we can share the joy of their success -- but we must also share the responsibility of proper preparation, and as well the blame if our athletes cannot keep themselves from getting injured at practices and prior to meets.  Overdoing the passive stretching before meets, overdoing the amount of "rotator cuff" excercises, and underdoing the amount of true "shoulder stability" excercises is the basis of many of our poor decisions.

Literature on shoulder health for swimmers is fairly new (as well as literature regarding passive stretching and its misconceptions) -- so I can understand that education is needed.  Much of the recent thinking on this subject is opposite what many coaches have been taught!

G. John Mullen has a few tips to heed when thinking about shoulder health.  This article should be called "(Mis)understanding the Rotator Cuff" because it argues the typical thinking RE the rotator cuff, and suggests new ways to understand our shoulder and its function.


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