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Take a lesson from tennis players when reaching overhead: Dip the shoulder opposite the reaching arm to reduce neck and shoulder strain. Photo: GavinZ

Baseball and tennis season is beginning, and whether you play or not, you can take away from the field and court tips to make your life safer and healthier.

Have you ever noticed pitchers and serving tennis players tilt their shoulders so that the shoulder opposite the ball or tennis racket is dipped? There is an advantage to that form. Observation shows that in dipping the shoulder, the space between the neck and raised arm is widened when compared to raising the arm overhead with shoulders level. This dipped position leads to less pressure on the nerves of the neck. Some physicians believe that this position also places less strain on the rotator cuff, the series of tendons attached about the shoulder socket. This same position also can more effectively stretch the neck and shoulder muscles during warm-up.

So how do you put this tip from athletes into practice? Although you should try as much as practical to engineer things so you don’t need to reach overhead, if you must, dip the shoulder opposite your reaching arm. This may save you some wear and tear.

And if you do find yourself throwing or serving a ball, using the shoulder tilt will help the shoulder blade more effectively put the brakes on the shoulder joint as you complete your motion. This can help prevent the shoulder ball joint from crashing against the cartilage rim socket that keeps that joint in place.

Most of us are not destined for the major league, but with a simple move we can avoid major pain.

Brian Svazas, M.D., M.P.H.