Dead arm syndrome refers to pain experienced during a throwing motion that results in decreased velocity. It can also refer to pain experienced by overhand athletes. This injury usually involves the rotator cuff tendons or the labrum. Your rotator cuff is a group of four muscles. The most commonly injured one is the supraspinatus tendon. The labrum is a cartilaginous structure that surrounds the shoulder socket, and it functions as a bumper to prevent the shoulder from dislocating. Dead arm syndrome can often have several causes. This may include the player compensating for existing problems to reduce the discomfort that develops in the shoulders and repetitive small tears caused by years of throwing.
While performing the throwing motion, the shoulder joint experiences extreme forces. The labrum and rotator cuff work hard to stabilize the arm and dissipate the generated forces. An injury to either structure makes it difficult to throw or serve.
Patients that suffer from this injury may complain of a decreased velocity when throwing or serving, reduced control, inability to warm up, or pain when throwing or hitting. Strains are not as severe as tears. Treatment initially involves rest and physical therapy. However, if a patient does not respond to conservative treatments, surgery is a viable option. This surgery is performed arthroscopically on an outpatient basis. In the case of a torn labrum, the labrum is repaired arthroscopically.