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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'shoulder injuries'

Pectoralis minor tightness coupled with kyphosis often leads to postural dysfunction, limited thoracic mobility and shoulder problems. This can increase injury risk for overhead athletes, Olympic lifters and fitness enthusiasts participating in regular weight training.

This exercise is from one of my columns for PFP Magazine, and it can be integrated as part of a warm-up/movement prep session prior to engaging in overhead sports or lifting activities. In addition, it can serve as a daily corrective to improve shoulder mobility and posture. Finally, it can be used in recovery and the cool-down to address soft tissue tightness in the chest. When used post-workout, I suggest a slightly longer hold time to emphasize more passive stretching when force production is not a concern.

Click here to read the entire column including details on the execution.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to work with lots of athletes ranging from youth to professionals. Regardless of age or skill level, I have observed that each one approaches the recovery in their own way. Some are eager to tackle therapy, while others are apprehensive and fearful.

To be clear, the mindset of the patient is as important, if not more important than the physical part of the process as it relates to success. With ACL rehab, I pay close attention at post-op visit number one to determine if the patient is a coper, non-coper or somewhere in between. Having this awareness is crucial as I look to encourage the client and position him/her for success in the fist phase of rehab. The mindset of a patient recovering from their second or third ACL tear may differ greatly than that of a first timer.

With that said, assessing the state of mind of any athlete in the PT clinic is a must. An athlete’s identity, confidence and self-worth is often tied to his/her sport. Injuries separate the athletes from their teams and take away something very important to them. This can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, fear and loneliness to name a few.

It is imperative to connect with an athlete in the first 1-2 visits of rehab. I aim to bond with them and ensure they know I will do everything in my power to get them back to their prior level of performance. Fear of loss is powerful, and I want to partner with them to prevent the loss of playing time as quickly and safely I can though proper rehab.


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Do you suffer with shoulder instability, shoulder weakness, poor trunk control or chronic shoulder/back pain? One of the biggest issues overhead athletes have is poor proximal stability, often leading to scapular dyskinesia. In turn, undue strain and force can cause stress on the rotator cuff and/or labrum.

In addition, nagging back pain can also occur as a result of repetitive micro-trauma. Improving pillar stability can reduce stress with hyperextension and rotation that creates stress and injuries in the lumbar spine.

This exercise is a unique and challenging way to improve shoulder and torso stability. In some instances, the stress on the wrist can be difficult, and in these cases I suggest using a closed fist on the stationary arm or moving to the knees. It is particularly effective exercise for swimmers, gymnasts, overhead athletes, and anyone with a history of shoulder instability.

Click here to read the entire column.

If you follow my blog, then you already know I have a 16 y/o left-handed son who pitches. As a sophomore, he is in the early stages of recruiting and has been to 3-4 showcase camps. He has good size at 6’3″ tall and 184 pounds. He has been up to 82 mph.

We have been told he projects at the D1 level, but he just needs to throw a little harder. Baseball is all about bigger, faster and stronger these days. Analytics and numbers rule the day. Coaches have told us that once he consistently throws 85 plus, the offers will start to roll in.

So, the big push for many pitchers today is gaining velo. There are lots of programs and “experts” on the subject offering online programs, weighted balls, velocity training tools, throwing programs, etc. The two questions I always have are:

  1. What is safe for throwing athletes?
  2. What is effective?

As a physical therapist, I only want to pursue things that satisfy both questions above. Personally, I do not believe there is a quick fix, or any one program that will deliver the goods.


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One of the bigger issues I see with athletes who have shoulder dysfunction is upper trap dominance. The upper trap needs to work in concert with he lower trap and serratus anterior for optimal shoulder function. However, in many cases, it tends to dominate the action during elevation.

I recently evaluated a professional baseball player who presented with upper trap dominance. In standing, his right scapula was elevated and slightly protracted. In many cases, you will see scapular infera in the dominant side of a thrower, but that was not the case with him. During active elevation, you could see excessive upper trap firing/activation compared to his left side. This can lead to altered glenohumeral mechanics and compression/irritation of the rotator cuff with repetitive throwing.

Performing low trap raises (the standard ‘Y’ exercise) and serratus anterior work is a no-brianer when you see something like this in order to activate the lower trapezius. But, I also like to focus on getting the client to pull the shoulder blades down and back if you will. Below is one of my favorite exercises I recently featured in PFP magazine to address this issue:

In addition, I like to use shoulder snow angels as well. Click here to see how to perform that exercise. Together, these two movements can really help eliminate upper trap dominance in your clients.