The Pilates system of exercises can help athletes prevent injury to the shoulder girdle by building the optimal
balance and strength in the muscles of that area.
Sports enthusiasts frequently experience upper body injuries. Sports such as golf and tennis demand a great deal of
strength through the upper body and arms, stability at the joints, and integration of movement with the rest of the body.
SHOULDERING THE LOAD
The shoulder girdle is a particularly complex area, including the scapulae (shoulder blades), clavicle (collar bone), and
humerus (upper-arm bone) along with associated muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Although the shoulder girdle is highly mobile
- allowing for impressive golf swings and tennis serves - this range of motion scarifies stability around the shoulder joint,
which is second only to the knee as a site of joint injury.
The scapula acts as an anchor for the arm. It floats on the back of the rib cage, held by a “sling” of
muscles. This arrangement allows for great freedom of movement, but it also means that the scapulae rely heavily on the strength
and patterning of the surrounding muscles. If there is a misalignment or too much movement in one direction or too little
in another, compensation will occur at the shoulder joint - usually compression and subsequent inflammation of the soft tissues
or injury to the rotator cuff muscles. Ouch!
The Pilates system of exercises can help athletes prevent injury to the shoulder girdle by building the optimal balance
and strength in the muscles of that area. Individuals undergo an assessment of posture, muscle balance, and movement patterns
when they start training. As they continue and progress, they are constantly reassessed.
Pilates first isolates movement in a particular area to create awareness and correct imbalances. Once a certain amount
of movement awareness, strength and stability is achieved, that area of the body can be reintegrated into larger movement
Bringing the musculature back into balance reduces stress and strain on the tissues during daily activities and when
playing sports. The core stability achieved through Pilates also builds strength that helps integrate movement and allows a
transfer of forces from the lower body to the upper body, crucial for all sports.
While creating the stability around the joints and through the core, Pilates exercises maximize range of motion
without sacrificing stability. This flexibility is integral for preventing sudden injuries and assuring that the upper body
remains in top form for all sports activities.
Moira Merrithew is the cofounder and Executive Director of Education for STOTT PILATES.