Why Pitchers Develop Rotator Cuff Problems

rotator cuff problems

It won’t be long until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training – and, unfortunately, it won’t be long until some pitchers start developing rotator cuff problems. Here is some information why this type of issue occurs and what could possibly be done to help prevent it.

The Basics

The part of the throwing motion that most commonly leads to rotator cuff problems is what is known as the “late cocking” phase. This is where the pitcher brings his arm and hand behind his body. While this is this part of the motion that helps him put the most speed on the ball, it is also where the most stress on the ligaments at the front of the shoulder takes place. These ligaments can loosen over time, which can be great for the pitcher because it helps increase speed. At the same time, though, it makes the shoulder less stable.

The follow-through phase can also cause issues with the rotator cuff. After the ball is released, the arm undergoes rapid internal rotation. In order to decelerate the arm, the back of the shoulder has to handle a great deal of stress.


Early symptoms of a rotator cuff problem typically include pain that radiates from the front portion of the shoulder to the side of the arm. It may be present either during a throwing session as well as during rest. As the problem worsens, pain will take occur at all hours of day. Eventually, the pitcher will experience a loss of range of motion as well as strength. The tendon will first fray and then tear.


While it may not be possible to totally prevent rotator cuff problems in pitchers, there are ways to potentially reduce the risk. Proper conditioning and technique are obviously key to lowering risk, as is getting plenty of rest in between throwing sessions. Proper stretching, in conjunction with strengthening the torso and upper back, can also help. Younger pitchers should be closely watched in terms of how many pitches they throw – not only in games but during practice as well – as well as the kinds of pitches they throw.

If you are suffering from shoulder pain, the Southlake experts with Advanced Spine & Orthopedics can help. Contact us online or call 817-310-8783 to schedule an appointment.