While CrossFit can effectively improve strength, endurance, and overall fitness, it can also put a lot of strain on the shoulders, making them vulnerable to injury.
The 10 most common shoulder injuries in CrossFit athletes, along with scientific literature references:
- Rotator cuff tendinitis – a common overuse injury in CrossFit athletes, characterised by inflammation of the rotator cuff tendons.
- Labral tears – tears of the shoulder joint’s labrum, which can be caused by repetitive overhead lifting and other shoulder movements common in CrossFit..
- Bursitis – inflammation of the bursae (small fluid-filled sacs) in the shoulder, which can be caused by repetitive overhead lifting and other shoulder movements.
- Impingement syndrome – a condition characterised by shoulder pain and weakness caused by compression of the rotator cuff tendons and/or bursae under the acromion (a bony prominence at the top of the shoulder blade)..
- Acromioclavicular (AC) joint injuries – injuries to the joint between the acromion and clavicle, which can be caused by falls or improper landing during CrossFit exercises such as box jumps or burpees. Glenohumeral (GH) joint instability – laxity or instability of the shoulder joint, which can be caused by repetitive overhead lifting and other shoulder movements.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome – a condition characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling in the arm and hand caused by compression of the nerves and/or blood vessels in the thoracic outlet (the space between the base of the neck and the armpit). Reference: Ryan,
- Scapular dyskinesis – Abnormal scapula movement can lead to shoulder pain and weakness.
To rehabilitate these shoulder injuries, treatment may include a combination of rest, ice, manual therapy and therapeutic exercises to improve strength and flexibility. Some specific exercises that may be recommended for shoulder rehabilitation include:
- Scapular stabilisation exercises: These exercises help to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blade, which can help to improve posture and reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. Examples include scapular push-ups and band pull-aparts.
- Rotator cuff strengthening exercises: These exercises target the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff, helping to improve strength and stability in the shoulder joint. Examples include external rotation exercises with a resistance band or dumbbell.
- Shoulder or Scapula mobilisation exercises: These exercises help to improve mobility and flexibility in the scapula, which can help to reduce impingement and other shoulder injuries. Examples include door frame stretches and cross-body stretches.
If you are a CrossFit athlete experiencing shoulder pain or discomfort, you must consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
A physiotherapist or other medical professional can help to develop a rehabilitation plan to address your specific needs and goals. Don’t let shoulder injuries prevent you from reaching your full potential in your CrossFit training.
Ryan, E. D., Prather, H., & O’Connor, F. G. (2015). Overuse injuries in CrossFit athletes. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 3(4), 2325967115577151.
Milewski, M. D., Hetzel, S. J., & Monson, J. L. (2017). Shoulder injuries in CrossFit athletes. Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 5(6), 2325967117751207.
De Oliveira, C., de Oliveira, A., & Soares, A. (2017). Scapular dyskinesis: A systematic review. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20(3), 245-252.
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