Loving boxing and my right shoulder …
Christina Cruz (l.) beats Florina Novac to take record sixth Golden Gloves title. Credit: Ken Goldenfield/NY Daily News
Aside from my absolute joy at the fact that Christina Cruz won her sixth (count ’em) New York Golden Gloves Championship (not to mention that she is the 2012 USA Boxing National Champion at 118 pounds!) boxing has definitely had the better of me lately.
And while I go to bed thinking about my left dig and wake up thinking of how to work in the left hook off the jab, my body isn’t cooperating in fact it’s in downright rebellion what with a labral tear in my right shoulder socket (that’s along the top, a classic repetitive stress injury from banging) and supraspinatus tendinitis (yep, plus a rotator cuff injury)!
Ssssh…. Talk about the proverbial “bummer.”
To go back a step or two, I’ve had intermittent pain in my shoulder area since about Christmas, mostly when I’d throw a right cross and sometimes on the speed bag. It wasn’t awful, but if I moved my right arm back, I yelped a definite “ow.” I was easy on it and figuring to lighten the exercise load tried swimming. It turned out that didn’t work out well either as I could only swim using a Side Stroke because the overhand movements of the American Crawl stroke — and the lateral movements of the Breast Stroke caused even more ows than boxing.
The ouches seemed to subside and I thought, must be a trigger point or something because the discomfort was mostly felt in the back of my arm. Still, it didn’t go away, and I began thinking it might be a rotator cuff injury which can be more serious.
Rotator cuff injuries up to and including actual tears involve the tendons and muscles outside the shoulder joint where the tendons attach the muscles to the humerus (arm) bone.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “A rotator cuff injury includes any type of irritation or damage to your rotator cuff muscles or tendons. Causes of a rotator cuff injury may include falling, lifting and repetitive arm activities — especially those done overhead, such as throwing a baseball or placing items on overhead shelves.”
In the case of boxing, the constant repetitive motion of throwing punches, not to mention, banging away, hard, on heavy bags, pads, not to mention sparring can certainly cause injuries.
With that in mind I headed over to an orthopedist at NYU/Hospital for Joint Diseases and within about five minutes, some “popping sounds” and several pushes on my right and left arms he was convinced I was suffering a rotator cuff problem and ordered up an MRI to be followed by physical therapy.
It was only after receiving the results from the MRI that it became clear that I had both a labral tear along the top of the labram — also called a SLAP tear (Superior Labrum Anterior-Posterior — aka top of the labram running from front to back), as well as tendinites of the supraspinatus tendon at the top of the shoulder. In other words, “ouch.”
After talking it over with my doctor, we both agreed that a conservative approach was preferable, so the next will be physical therapy (tomorrow) with a focus on treatment, pain relief and muscle strengthening to give better support to the shoulder area.
Unfortunately, when it comes to SLAP tears, the alternatives after physical therapy can be rather bleak — as in arthroscopic surgery, though my doctor feels strongly that the physical therapy should do the trick, and with your indulgence I’ll likely write another piece about the physical therapy process once it gets going.
The real cautionary tale here is that if you shoulder is starting to “catch” when you pull your arm back, or if you find it aching to the point of an “ow” after a work out, do get it checked out. There are, it seems, a lot of things that can go wrong with the shoulder — and a good course of physical strengthening of the muscles in the area, as well as good warm-ups may mean the difference, especially if you are shall we say … older!
For some more information on rotator cuff injuries and SLAP injuries here are some links!
Medline Plus – Shoulder Injuries and Disorders (site has a lot of links for possible disorders)
WEBMD Shoulder Slap Tear (good general discussion)
Lenox Hill Hospital – Rotator Cuff Exercises (tips on strengthening)
Lenox Hill Hospital – Shoulder Pain (general disorders with links)