The recent news of NBA basketball player, Dwight Howard injuring his right shoulder during the game against the Denver Nuggets quickly stirred my curiosity and put me in a quandary as to how this could possibly happen.
I am a huge sports fan and rightfully so, sports is my life. I have been a sports nutritionist and strength coach for close to 27 years; even though currently my focus has been marketing and promoting my Tribustol sports performance supplement/www.tribustol.com; the profession of strength training is still close to my heart.
If you keep up with the athletes as I do, you know that Dwight has incredible “boulder” shoulders that seem unbreakable and yet now are injured; so naturally, you have to ask yourself “why did this happen.” Let’s open this up for investigation! This, by the way, this is one of the things I love to do! Several factors could have contributed to his injury. My first (educated) guess is that maybe he over trained his upper body while strength training; therefore, weakening the shoulder and making it inflamed and tender. I viewed and evaluated some of his training videos I found on YouTube and discovered that he does a lot of upper body strength training and some of those exercises include using his shoulders in very awkward ways.
These exercises (based on my experience) appear to be “new and innovative” and I am not convinced they are biomechanically sound for effectiveness or safe for the shoulder work.
The second option is that he actually did incur the injury on the court during the game itself. However, the injury to the shoulder or the “Glenoid Labrum” is not easily injured because it sits underneath the rotator cuff muscles. The Labrum is soft tissue surrounding the Glenoid Socket in which the Humeral Head fits into in order to create the Ball/Socket joint in the shoulder. This area is very well protected by the structure of muscles-secondly the labrum sits over on one end of the scapula’s edge (a large well-structured bone).
According to orthopedic doctors, in order to injure the shoulder he would have had to extend his arm (abduction/external rotation) in a manner bending the elbow and finally someone pushing down on the arm with a lot of force. This happening in a basketball game is not likely; however, this circumstance would be possible in a football game. Orthopedists also mentioned the second possibility of a Labrum tear by excessive use of overhead arm motion like in a tennis serve or baseball pitching.
My suspicion lies in overuse of the shoulder during his strength training. I noticed Dwight was performing a bench press exercise on a machine (No brand names mentioned) in which the machine creates a greater resistance in addition to the weight load! The resistance is further enhanced in both the top and bottom of the exercise-Wow! Talk about increasing the stress on the shoulders! Secondly, his hand positioning on the bar is incorrect causing additional stress to his shoulders and upper body. Excessive work in the shoulders could have set the stage for an injury to occur on the court.
Dwight Howard has had impressive shoulder and upper body development since day 1 in the NBA, therefore any sports trainer could have taken the “sensible” approach to minimize the training for his upper body and focus where the basketball player needs more attention – his lower body!
With regard to his training, one of the risks of creating new exercises is that sometimes you can compromise biomechanics and/or function. We seem to be in an era where sport trainers feel compelled to “create” new exercises. Even the sports equipment companies have jumped onboard; i.e. some cable machines that I have used could cause more injury than strength benefit! Please choose your exercises and machines wisely. We have reached that point in the trendiness of fitness where we can no longer just jump on a machine and crank out our sets; we now have to consider if the equipment and the movements are safe and ergonomically correct.
If you aren’t sure, it is always best to ask a professional trainer at your gym.