Boxing & Shoulder Injuries

Written by joanne robitaille
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Boxing & Shoulder Injuries
Boxing can lead to serious shoulder injuries. (face a face image by B-Decencière from

Boxing is one of the oldest sports in the world. For the most part, people associate head and abdomen injuries with the sport, but other serious injuries can occur in a boxer's shoulder. Injuries to the shoulder—the rotator cuff in particular—most often occur during training rather than during actual matches because of the repetitive motions involved.

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Rotator Cuff Tears

A tear in a boxer’s rotator cuff can be the result of constant repetitive motion from throwing punches or of a single punch gone wrong. One of the first indications of a torn rotator cuff is sudden pain or weakness when the boxer lifts or rotates his arm. Another easily recognisable symptom is the sound of a slight clicking noise when the arm moves in certain ways. Left ignored, this can eventually lead to a serious tear in the muscle. Depending on the severity of the tear, surgery may be required. For more minor tears, physiotherapy can usually repair the damage.

Rotator Cuff Impingement

This type of injury is most likely to occur while the boxer is weightlifting and engaging in overhead lifting motions. Tendinitis occurs as the rotator cuff muscles rub against the outer end of the shoulder bone as the boxer repeatedly lifts weights above his head. As with rotator cuff tears, impingement also causes the inflamed muscles to rub against a small hooded bone in the shoulder called the acromion. In this instance, rather than simply tearing, the inflamed muscles put pressure on a fluid-filled sac called a bursa, which can become inflamed leading to a condition called bursitis. If left untreated, the combination of an inflamed rotator cuff and bursitis can lead to tears in the muscle fibre that can eventually tear the tendon entirely off the bone.

Shoulder Bursitis

As with other boxing shoulder injuries, repetitive motion also causes bursitis. Bursas are small fluid-filled sacs found on all joints in the body that act as cushions between bone and tissue. Initial symptoms of bursitis are stiffness in the shoulder muscles or a burning sensation around the joint when flexing. Rest and anti-inflammatory drugs can repair bursitis in its early stages. Bursitis in its acute form, however, can become chronic if it's left untreated or the shoulder continues to receive repeated injuries.

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