Physiotherapy Q&A: my shoulder keeps ‘clicking’ when I play cricket

I’ve had a year off cricket but used to play every summer. I really want to get back in to weekly cricket this summer but when I recently trained with my old team I noticed a lot of clicking and clunking in my right shoulder, especially when bowling and catching. Is this anything I should be concerned about?

Bowling and overhead catching require good coordination and support from the small muscles around the shoulder that provide the joint its stability. When these aren’t working to their best the joint can become unstable which often results in clicking and clunking. The shoulder is the joint of the body with the most amount of available movement. This gives it great dexterity and function but also means that it is inherently a more unstable joint. To help with this the shoulder is cleverly designed to have a group of small muscles that wrap around the ball and socket of the shoulder, called the rotator cuff. These small muscles are able to constantly react to the pressures we put on the shoulder to ensure the ball remains stable in the socket.

The rotator cuff muscles work best to provide the shoulder joint its stability when they are regularly challenged to do so. Therefore after a long period of not putting the demands of bowling and catching that cricket requires on these muscles following your break from cricket, your rotator cuff may have become deconditioned, hence the clicking and clunking. With the absence of any pain or any major injury to your shoulder I would suggest that you are experiencing functional instability of your right shoulder with your rotator cuff not providing the support your shoulder needs to successfully carry out these challenging activities.

To help with this, you need to gradually improve both the strength and endurance of these muscles. Special attention needs to be made to making sure you are strengthening your rotator cuff in a similar way to which you need the shoulder to function in. The best way to do this would be to see a good physiotherapist to assess your individual rotator cuff control and provide you a bespoke rehabilitation program to eliminate the clicking and clunking.

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