Post-Surgical Shoulder Rehab and the MMA Athlete- Striking

Previously I posted on Demetrius Johnson’s recent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder.  Today, I will give a brief commentary on the role of proprioception in rehab following such a surgery.  Addressing proprioception deficits are of paramount importance for any athlete engaged in contact sports.

Proprioception refers to the body’s ability to sense movement within joints, and to sense  joint position.  The proprioceptive system is made up of special nerves in the muscles, capsule and ligaments around joints. These “receptor” nerves can sense tension and stretch and pass this information to the brain for processing.  The brain then signals the muscles surrounding a joint to contract or relax in order to produce the desired movement.  In the case of a fighter, these movements occur extremely fast.

Proprioception is particularly important in the shoulder which is the point of force transition when striking.  The power for a strike is initiated in the legs,then transferred from the legs to the trunk.  As the arm starts to extend during a strike, the shoulder directs the force in a coordinated fashion to the arm, and ultimately to the target via the hand.  If a fighter such as Johnson has difficulty controlling the subtle movements of the shoulder, he could have continued pain and dysfunctional movement patterns of the shoulder.  He will not be able to effectively transfer the forces for a strike from the trunk to the arm/hand.  This in turn would render his strikes ineffective.

Rehabilitation of shoulder proprioception should start as soon as the athlete is able to achieve full range of motion of the shoulder joint.  In my clinical practice, I will start my shoulder patients working in a weight bearing position through the shoulder as soon as possible.  

If you have any questions about this rehabilitation topic, ask me @mmainjury on Twitter.

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