Shoulder Pain In Quarterbacks

April 25, 2022

The quarterback position has become extremely competitive over the past few years with the progression of the passing game. Quarterbacks are under the microscope more than any other position on the field from a young age, all the way into the pros. Each year we watch our local or national sports channels and hear who the up-and-coming quarterbacks will be taking the field this year. This of course, is if that player can stay healthy and “make all the throws”.  As a physical therapist, I ask the question,what are the proper mechanics needed to become a great quarterback and can breakdowns in these mechanics cause injuries?

When we look at some of the great quarterbacks in the NFL in recent years, we see a variety of release points, arm angles, and styles.  For example, recently retired QB Philip Rivers was a side arm thrower.  He was effective, could throw the long ball,but wasn’t always the most accurate QB in the league.  However, despite his “weird throwing motion”,he had no overuse injuries that kept him out of games? Let's look at another retired QB, Peyton Manning.  Known for his mechanical style of throwing, he could make all the throws and was very effective and accurate with the ball. Again, no overuse injuries to the throwing shoulder.  

So, what does this mean?  The short answer, there is no perfect throwing motion that is required to become an effective QB on the field.  QB coaches are useful for those athletes who are having shoulder pain with their motion, or require tweaking to their motion to make it more “fluid”. Even with all the coaching, there still is a chance of injury when it comes to an overhead athlete due to a variety of variables.  Here are some examples of those variables: alate change in QB mechanics, increased workload in a short period of time, oran external force placed on the shoulder during the throwing motion. It is our job as physical therapists to keep our throwers healthy.  We can do this in a variety of ways.

·      Create a throwing program which a QB can start early in the preseason to build up his/her tolerance to the volume of throws that are required in-season


·      Create a healthy shoulder workout which consists of working scapular stabilizers, rotator cuff dynamic stability, and thoracic mobility


·      Don’t forget the legs! The lower extremity is extremely important when it comes to force generation.  Without the proper leg strength, the QB’s torso and shoulder have to generate more force than usual, which overtime can cause shoulder pain and subsequent injury.

Next time you are watching a football game or practice,check how the quarterbacks are throwing. What does their technique look like and what is their training program like? Overuse injuries of the shoulder are easy to get and hard to overcome.  Decreasing the likihood of injury by training the correct way, getting on a throwing program, and getting a PT or QB coach if needed can make all the difference when it comes to success the field.