Curt Schilling's shoulder injury is a hot topic of debate in the sports arena right now. While doctors are keeping his diagnosis from public view, it is probable that he, at the very least, is suffering from biceps tendonitis. In fact, there is an extremely high likelihood that he also has a SLAP lesion, a superior labral tear anterior to posterior.
The labrum of the shoulder serves two primary functions:
1) Deepens the fossa (cavity) where the humerus (upper arm bone) meets the scapula (shoulder blade) to increase contact space for better joint movement.
2) Serves as a vacuum seal for the shoulder joint, meaning that it allows the rotator cuff to rest while helping to maintain upright posture.
The biceps tendon, contrary to the sound of it, has very little sensitivity with normal 'bicep-type' activities, such as bicep curls, hammer curls, reverse curls, etc. Conversely, the biceps tendon is most aggravated while lifting your arm straight out in front of you with your palm facing up, or during 'wind up' motions, as in baseball pitching.
Curt Schilling has demonstrated on many occasions that he has hyperflexibility in the shoulder girdle, allowing him to wind up and pitch the ball much faster. Unfortunately, with speed comes a tough price to pay. When too much pulling of the biceps tendon takes place through rapid movement from the 'cocking' phase of a baseball pitch to the 'follow through,' it is possible that the biceps tendon will pull forcefully up on the labrum, to which it is adhered . Under maximal loads and / or repetitive trauma, this many times results in SLAP lesions, as is discussed above.
In order to improve the stability of your shoulder complex and decrease the risk of needing surgery, it is important to work on shoulder blade stability first. In order to do so effectively, I recommend two exercises in particular:
1) Plank with theraband hold – push-up like position, on your forearms and elbows with a therapand wrapped around your wrists. Stretch the theraband until your arms are shoulder width apart, raise your knees off of the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and hold for 30-60 seconds. Repeat 3x every day, especially if you are baseball pitcher.
2) Crossed extension – on all 4's, raise opponent arm and leg into the air while maintaining a 'neutral spine' position, or straight back. Avoid any twisting and turning movements as much as possible for the best result. Alternate between right arm with left leg and left arm with right leg until you have done ten repetitions with each side. Repeat for three sets or until fatigue. Pay special attention to the arm that stabilizes you against the ground. Be sure to keep your shoulder blades back and squeezed together to prevent abnormal movement while you are bearing weight on your arm.
With these simple two additions listed above, you can markedly increase the stability of your shoulder complex with very little effort. Who knows? This may help you avoid surgery one day!