With only one exception, every time I've injured myself sailing has been when I've skipped my stretching routine, so I do this religiously. For me's it's cheap insurance.
I discovered the one injury exception when I had trouble with one stretch - the one where I bend over, grab my hands behind my back, and then try to lift them over my head. It's a yoga move I've done for 20 years and this one time there was a sharp pain in my left shoulder. An MRI showed a partial tear in my rotator cuff.
The strange thing about this injury is that you may not feel it at the time but it's very painful later. I had a pretty good idea of how I tore it. Rounding a bottom mark in a breeze, I'd pull on the vang and cunningham by leaning back as hard as I could and I'm sure I just pulled it out of the socket.
I've heard from fellow Laser sailors who have had surgery to repair the tear and without exception they have all talked about the pain and the long recovery time. Sailing a Laser in a breeze has a lot to do with pain management, so when a world-class Laser sailor talks about pain, it must hurt.
I was scheduled for surgery at the end of 2013 but cancelled it with the hope that there was a better solution. Sure enough, Pam found a series of exercises that looked promising.
The first step was using ice initially and the second was heat and massage to increase the blood circulation. For this, I used an industrial-strength vibrator every day for months. The next step was really basic exercises that were trivial compared to regular sailing, so I did not bother. But there was another reason - my shoulder no longer hurt.
A word of caution: I'm not a doctor, I only had a partial tear, and this is what has worked for me. I share this with you because I avoided the pain and lengthy recovery time of surgery and was able to sail in a breeze at Hyères without incident. Here are the other steps I use to protect my shoulders.
- I've increased the purchase on my cunningham to 10:1 so that it's much easier get it tight.
- When I pull on a control, I pull with my arm muscles flexed and not just by leaning back.
- A exercise I did for years was tricep dips. These are apparently really hard on my rotator cuffs, so I don't do them any more.
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