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“Padel shoulder” and rotator cuff exercises exercises for padel players

Updated Dec 03, 2023

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Supplies needed

  • an elastic band with a handle (Amazon)
  • 2 kg, 5kg dumbbells (Amazon)

Padel shoulder

Playing padel is hard on the shoulders. Similar to swimming, the repeated reaching above one's head can result in what we call "padel shoulder" (refer to Swimmer's shoulder).

Padel shoulder is used to refer to a broad range of injuries in the shoulder, neck, and back resulting from repeated strain on shoulders from reaching over the head to hit chancletazos, top spin smashes, rulos, and other types of smashes.

If you experience this, we recommend you take a break from the court and seek the care of a physical therapist.

The following is a guide on what happens, why it occurs, and how to reduce the chances of it happening to you.

A lot is going on in there

The anatomy of the rotator cuff

The rotator cuff is a sheath of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that supports the arm at the shoulder joint.

The supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and the supscapularis are put under strain as you reach above your head for smashes

Why padel shoulder pain occurs

Shoulder injuries result from padel due to the stress resulting from repeatedly reaching up behind your head in smashes.

Bad posture results in shoulders rolling forward and weakening of the rotator cuff muscles that should pull your shoulders back and down.

Weak shoulders won’t have the strength to pull your shoulders back and down as you're preparing your smashes.

Improper technique exacerbates the problem, as you’ll put your shoulder into uncomfortable angles seeking to generate power any way you can.

Nerve impingement may also happen. If the pain is pain and long-lasting, you should see a physical therapist. S/he will run a quick test for nerve impingement. The following guide can not help with that.

Editor’s note: I thought I had nerve impingement for months before making time to see a physical therapist. I was wrong. Please go see a physical therapist if you’ve had this problem for more than a couple of weeks, so you don’t cause more injury to your shoulder.

How to prevent shoulder (rotator cuff) injury

First, rest. Take some time off playing. You won’t heal with repetitive strain.

Second, work on your posture. If you spend a lot of time at a desk, put a post-it note on your desk with the words, “Roll shoulders down and back.”

Third, strengthen your shoulder (rotator cuff) muscles. The following guide is a list of workouts I received through a few months of sessions with a physical therapist.

It is recommended to do these every other day on "off" (nonmatch/training) days.

Rotator cuff strengthening exercises

The Stuck Elbow

Fix the elastic band around a fixed object, e.g. door handle. Hold the elastic band so your thumb is up and fix your elbow to the side of your torso. Turn your body so your non-dominant side is facing where the band is attached, and pivot your dominant arm outwards slowly. 3-5 seconds per rep.

3 sets of 15 slow reps.

The Gator Chomps

Fix the elastic band around a fixed object, and pull it down while keeping your wrist and elbow straight. Focus on keeping your shoulder down

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

One-handed Swimmer

Lie face down with one arm straight up against the side of your head. Hold a dumbbell - I use 2 kilograms - about 15 centimeters off the ground. Keep your wrist and elbow straight.

1 minute.

Start the Lawn Mower

Loop the elastic band around a fixed object, e.g. door handle. Engage your lats (muscle below your shoulder) to pull it back slightly while keeping your arm straight. It is a small movement with focused tension.

This exercise prepares you to keep your shoulder down during the “Dan Dan.”

1 set of 10 reps.

The "Dan Dan"

Hold the elastic band slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. While keeping your shoulders down as much as possible, move the band over and behind your head and back.

Possible standing or seated.

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Fist Swings

Hold a ~5-kilogram dumbbell straight up while resting your elbow on your knee. While keeping your wrist straight, pivot your forearm down and back as slowly as possible.

2-3 sets of 10-15 reps.

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