5 Stretches to Help Treat Shoulder Injuries in Football Players
The sport of football is many things. It is physical, it is tactical, it can be beautiful and it can be dramatic. One thing it is not, is gentle.
Injuries go hand in hand with the violent game that is football. Bumps, bruises and breaks are simply part of a game that involves high-speed collisions and sudden changes of direction. For this reason, preparation and recovery are vital to the health of football players.
In particular, shoulder prep and recovery cannot be overemphasized when it comes to keeping football players on the field and off the trainer's table. The shoulders are often what absorb the brunt of the vicious tackles seen throughout every game, and they should be cared for accordingly. Here are a handful of useful stretches that can treat football-related shoulder injuries.
Tightness in the neck area can cause tightness in the shoulders and vice-versa. For this reason, a good neck roll can loosen up a lot of the upper body, making it better at absorbing hits on the gridiron.
A neck roll involves slowly swinging the head from one shoulder to the other with the chin as close to the chest as possible. The player will feel a pull in the opposite shoulder area as he swings to the right and then to the left. Repeat this several times for a few minutes, and the neck and shoulders should be more flexible and prepared for the game.
Flexible shoulders are very important to a successful football player, particularly quarterbacks and wide receivers. Those in charge of throwing and catching the ball must be able to reach in any direction uninhibited by shoulder tightness. The cow-face pose is a good way to loosen up this area.
This pose involves reaching one arm over the back, behind the head, and one arm behind the back, starting from the bottom and reaching up toward the shoulders. Ideally, the player should be able to interlock his fingers at a point near the center of the back. This should be done alternatively, switching arms several times. A player with flexible shoulders should have the same amount of flexibility regardless of which arm is behind the head and which is behind the back.
Otherwise known as “goal post” arms, this stretch also helps keep the shoulder flexible in multiple directions. For this exercise, a player should stand up against a wall with his arms bent upwards at the elbow, essentially making a field goal shape. He should then rotate one of his arms downwards while keeping the shoulder against the wall, making an upside-down L shape. This motion will be alternated, as each arm takes turns between a normal L and an inverse L while remaining against the wall. Goal post arm stretches help a player keep rotational flexibility, as each arm repeats the motion of upward and downward rotation.
A tried-and-true stretch across myriad sports, arm circles take the shoulder through an entire rotation. This easy stretch involves the player rotating his arms slowly but deliberately in a perfect overhead circle. One at a time, he should rotate forward for a handful of reps and then backward for a handful of reps. Once he has done this for a few sets, his shoulders should be acclimated to a full range of rotation.
I, Y and T Movements
This exercise can be done with five- to 10-pound weights — or with none at all. It involves moving the arms upward until they are at about eye level, in three different positions. The I position means that the player’s arms are extended straight out in front. The Y position means that the arms are spread out about 45 degrees to the right and left. The T position involves the player spreading his arms straight out to the sides.
It is important to keep the back tight during these exercises, and to always do them slowly and deliberately. This will strengthen the shoulders, helping players absorb and/or deliver the crushing hits that are a staple of football.
The Little Things
These small stretches and exercises are unglamorous. However, these is no way to overstate the importance of strong, flexible shoulders for successful football players. Proper stretching — and occasionally proper shoulder support and protection — can do wonders for a player trying to stay healthy. Though they may be boring, these may just be what separates the men from the boys out on the gridiron.