Performing the over-head shoulder press exercise with load has become a concern among tennis players. But what are the risks associated with the over-head shoulder press to tennis players? The most common injury concern is called Shoulder Impingement, and it can greatly affect a tennis player's ability. Let's take a look at what Shoulder Impingement is, what causes it and whether or not tennis players should avoid the shoulder press.
What is Shoulder Impingement?
“Impingement refers to mechanical compression and/or wear of the rotator cuff tendons. The rotator cuff is actually a series of four muscles connecting the scapula (shoulder blade) to the humeral head (upper part of the shoulder joint). The rotator cuff is important in maintaining the humeral head within the glenoid (socket) during normal shoulder function and also contributes to shoulder strength during activity. Normally, the rotator cuff glides smoothly between the undersurface of the acromion, the bone at the point of the shoulder and the humeral head.” (Ben Shaffer, M.D., www.sportsmed.org.)
What causes Shoulder Impingement?
“Any process which compromises this normal gliding function may lead to mechanical impingement. Common causes include weakening and degeneration within the tendon due to aging, the formation of bone spurs and/or inflammatory tissue within the space above the rotator cuff (subacromial space), and overuse injuries. Overuse activities that can lead to impingement are most commonly seen in tennis players, pitchers and swimmers.” (Ben Shaffer, MD., www.sportsmed.org.)
Should tennis players avoid the shoulder press?
The truth is, there are many factors that need to be considered in order to determine if anyone should do a particular exercise under load. They include heart conditions, previous muscular-skeleton injury, conditioning level, current sport and activity volume. This is information that exercise professionals gather before having an individual perform resistance training exercises. In addition, it's crucial to understand how each person’s movement capabilities will allow them to properly perform an activity.
There are four primary areas that should be addressed when assessing a movement under load to prevent injury:
- Range of motion – How much range does a joint have that’s associated with an exercise?
- Symmetry – Is that range the same on both sides?
- Stability – How stable is the joint in those ranges?
- Compensation patterns – Do other body segments compensate during the movement?
A thorough assessment by an exercise professional of a tennis player completing an over-head shoulder press under load will show if this could be a beneficial exercise to improve upper body strength and power. However, before adding it to a training regimen, it's important to address all the factors listed above to determine appropriate load, reps and sets.