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Physician Update – February 2022

An Olympic-Level Treatment for Shoulder Injuries – PT HELPS WEIGHTLIFTERS RETURN TO THE GYM

In July 2021, Hidilyn Diaz made history at the Tokyo Olympics when she hoisted a barbell weighing more than 493 pounds into the air. The 30-year-old athlete set an Olympic record with that lift and won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the Philippines. It was an incredible moment, especially because Diaz had trained with water bottles as
weights during lockdown!

Diaz made her successful lift safely, but a recent systematic review of past studies published by the British Journal of Medical & Health Sciences (BJMHS) found Olympic weightlifting overall is fraught with potential for injury, specifically shoulder injuries. The review found that 16.9% of Olympic weightlifting injuries impacted the shoulder. This
potentially makes shoulder injuries the most common of all Olympic weightlifting injury types.

The BJMHS findings came on the heels of a previous survey of Olympic weightlifting and powerlifting injuries that found that the “spine, shoulder, and knee were the most common injury localizations in both sports.”

That prevalence might seem like a minor concern considering the number of people who become Olympians, but Olympic weightlifting doesn’t just take place at the Olympics.
The “clean and jerk” and the “snatch” — the two key Olympic weightlifting moves — and their variations are popular strength and conditioning exercises for athletes in sports ranging from football to lacrosse. The set is also commonly included in CrossFit workouts either as part of the strength portion, skills portion, or workout of the day (WOD) portion of the class.

According to CrossFit itself, there are at least 5,300 CrossFit-affiliated gyms in the U.S., and CNBC reports at least 4 million people participate in CrossFit — putting themselves at high risk of shoulder injuries, including labral injuries, shoulder instability, and rotator cuff

You’ve likely seen patients with these exact problems in your office. The demands of Olympic weightlifting can be too much for some people’s bodies, particularly when they are lifting extremely heavy weights, lifting in high volume (overuse), colliding with the bar
excessively, or using incorrect form. Research has shown that beyond Olympic weightlifting, “36% of injuries in the weightlifting population occur at the shoulder complex.”

If an athlete injures their shoulder while weightlifting, they have several treatment options ranging from rest and medication to surgery. Of those, one of the most effective and noninvasive is physical therapy. It’s the recommended conservative treatment in conjunction with workout modification, appropriate recovery, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Physical therapists can help treat shoulder pain, labral injuries, shoulder instability, and rotator cuff pathology with customized treatment like manual therapy, stretching and strengthening exercises, and motor retraining.

PT is also an excellent first course of treatment for other common weightlifting injuries including injuries to the hips, back, knees, and ankles. Ideally, athletes would protect themselves from such injuries with proper form, warmups, clothing, and training, but many fail to do so.

There’s a reason physical therapists are included in the group of 30 or so health care professionals who travel with Team USA to the Olympics!

2019 focuspt headshot julian

Julian Manrique

Focus Physical Therapy

"We Help Adults Get Back To Their Normal Active Lifestyles Naturally...While Avoiding Medications, Injections, And Surgeries"