Often, rotator cuff tears are the result of moving the arm/shoulder in a throwing motion. It is not an uncommon problem for baseball pitchers. Incorrect shot putting technique can lead to a rotator cuff tear. If you throw the "throw" the shot with a throwing arm motion, chances are pretty good that some day you will have a rotator cuff problem. The shot is "put" by unhinging the bent arm while keeping the thumb pointed down through the entire motion. If the thumb is horizontal or pointed up, then a throwing arm action was employed.
The 'rotator cuff' is not just one muscle. It is actually made up of four muscles that are located just beneath the deltoid muscle. These are the supraspinatus, intraspinatus, toros minor and subcapularis muscles. It is easy to get a 'tear' in one of these muscles. In extreme cases this will require surgery to repair. Following are some drills/exercises for stretching and strengthening these muscles.
PROPER STRETCHING OF THE ROTATOR CUFF
EXTERNAL ROTATION DRILL:
Lie on your back, rest the upper arms on the surface and bend the elbows at 90 degrees so that the lower arm is pointing upward. Hold a solid object (broom handle, cane, plastic pipe) that is about three feet long between the hands. With a steady, gentle force, push/rotate one hand toward the other hand which is resisting the force. If you have an injury, the force should be directed toward the injured side. Hold this position/force for 30 seconds. Do at least five repeats three times a week.
CROSS BODY STRETCH:
While standing and with an arm extended straight out and parallel to the floor, grasp the elbow of that arm with the other hand. Pull the elbow toward the opposite shoulder with a steady, gentle force. Pull until a stretch is felt and then hold this position for 30 seconds. Three times a week, do five repeats with each arm.
Grasp a towel in one hand and move the hand so that it is up and behind your head. Grasp the other end of the towel with your other hand that is down and behind your back. Gently move the upper hand upward pulling the lower hand up until a stretch in the shoulder is felt. Hold for at least 30 seconds and do five repeats three times a week.
FOR STRENGTHENING THE ROTATOR CUFF
1: Stand next to a wall with the elbow close to your rib cage and bent at 90 degrees. Push the hand/lower arm/elbow against the wall. Hold the pressure against wall/stationary object for at least 20 seconds.
2: With the arm in the above condition, rotate the hand/lower arm outward from straight ahead through an angle of about 30 degrees while pulling against a bungee chord or rubber tubing.
3: While lying on the side with the upper arm bent at 90 degrees and across the chest, rotate a free weight from the surface to a position where the lower arm is parallel to the surface.
1: This is basically the same as 1: above, except that the wall/stationary object is on the inside of the lower arm/wrist.
2: The same as 2: above, except that the pull/rotation is now across the stomach. Keep the upper arm/elbow close to the side, but not resting on the body.
3: The same as 3: above, except that the lifting/rotation is now accomplished by the arm that is resting on the surface. The rotation is now in toward the stomach.
Do three to five repeats three times a week on all of these strengthening drills.