Whether it’s golf, tennis, softball, baseball, or fishing, outdoor sports are a great way to improve cardiovascular health and enjoy the beautiful weather while having fun. However, these activities may sometimes lead to injuries in one of the most complicated joints in the body – the shoulder.
Does Great Weather = Increased Shoulder Injuries?
“To some degree, weather can affect shoulder injuries,” Dr. Raynor said. “There are a few different shoulder injuries that we see more of in the warm weather. Traumatic injuries to the shoulder are more likely to occur in the summer, and ‘overuse’ injuries, where people are playing tennis, golf, and softball and haven’t played over the entire winter, are also more common in the warm months.”
According to Dr. Raynor, the traumatic injuries he typically sees in the warmer months are from bicycle riders. Bicycle falls or crashes can result in clavicle injuries such as fractures and separation of the “A/C” joint (where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade).
The “overuse injuries” are typical of the “weekend warrior” whose shoulder injury is usually rotator cuff tendonitis or bicep tendonitis.
As people go out and become more active, the muscles that are not accustomed to the stress and overuse can become inflamed and cause shoulder pain. In more serious cases, the increased activity could even cause the rotator cuff to tear. This injury is more likely to occur among older athletes, but it can happen with younger people as well.
How to Treat Your Injured Shoulder
If you have an ‘overuse’ injury, your pain is most likely the result of inflammation. Your orthopedic surgeon will first deal with getting the inflammation under control and then attempt to strengthen the muscle to ensure it doesn’t happen again. In some cases, a cortisone injection is necessary to reduce inflammation but, in most cases, taking anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen, resting, and receiving physical therapy can help correct this.
Even with more serious traumatic injuries, you may be able to avoid surgery. For example, most clavicle fractures can be treated without an operation. However, if the fracture is more serious, surgery may be required.
Professional Athletes Favor Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy for Shoulder Injuries: Should You?
Many professional athletes – particularly baseball players – have been using ‘platelet-rich plasma’ (PRP) for the treatment of shoulder injuries. Is this safe and effective for YOU? According to Dr. Raynor, the jury is still out on this question.
“Platelet-rich plasma involves taking blood from the person with an injury and ‘spinning’ it down to get its platelets,” Dr. Raynor said. “We then inject these platelets into the injured tissue, in hopes of expediting the healing. It is interesting to note that by our tweaking the white blood cells, these platelets can act as an anti-inflammatory treatment, thereby reducing pain, or they can be used as a ‘pro-inflammatory’ agent to stimulate that last little bit of the healing process.
“While we still don’t know conclusively how and why these PRP injections help to heal an injury, we know that the granules in the platelets have many ‘growth’ elements in them. At the present time, we don’t have a way to separate these elements, but we can deliver them to tissue and heal them, while acting as an anti-inflammatory.”
As a patient, you should be aware there has been a great deal of research on this treatment and some of it is conflicting. Since there are different ways of preparing these platelets, the research is still unclear about the effectiveness of using them for the treatment of shoulder injuries. Some patients feel trying this PRP treatment is preferable to steroid treatment which can break down tissue, and worth the expense (it is not typically covered by health insurance.)
If competing in sports or playing outdoors is an important part of your life and your injured shoulder is keeping you from the activities you love, consult an orthopedic specialist to explore your treatment options.