Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Shoulder Pain in Throwing Athletes


Am Fam Physician. 2014 Apr 1;89(7):online.

  See related article on common conditions in the overhead athlete

Which athletes should be worried about shoulder injuries?

Athletes who often throw (such as baseball or softball players) or strike a ball (such as volleyball or tennis players) are prone to shoulder injuries. The overhead throwing or striking motion can cause pinched muscles and can damage the shoulder.

What causes it?

The most common cause is an uneven balance between muscles. This causes a change in the way you throw or strike the ball, called biomechanics (BI-oh-muh-CAN-ics). Repeatedly throwing or striking with poor biomechanics makes your muscles work harder.

What are the symptoms?

Pain in the shoulder during the overhead motion of throwing or striking is the most common symptom. Other symptoms may include a change in your performance (power or accuracy) or pain in your neck, elbow, or lower back.

How is it diagnosed?

See your doctor if your symptoms affect your movement. Your doctor will look at your shoulder. He or she might want to x-ray your shoulder or do magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

How is it treated?

The first step is to rest your shoulder. Stretching and strengthening exercises are also important. You may need to see a physical therapist. Some people need surgery if rest and exercise do not help.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


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