Physical Examination of the Overhead Athlete’s Shoulder

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Overhead athletes seek the services of an orthopedic surgeon because of pain and/or dysfunction. It is important to address the cause of the symptoms more so than the source of the patient’s pain, so that treatment will eliminate the problem rather than merely ameliorate symptoms temporarily. In order to accomplish a thorough assessment of shoulder function, the examiner must expand his/her view from isolated assessment of the glenohumeral joint range of motion, stability, assessment of rotator cuff strength, palpation and provocative maneuvers, and add assessment of the shoulder in the context of the kinetic chain. The examination of the thrower’s shoulder, coupled with a thorough history, will usually provide a solid functional diagnosis and provide a good idea as to the presence of structural damage. As a result, the value of rehabilitation and the benefit of surgical intervention are made more predictable.

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