How to Prevent Shoulder Injuries in Ultimate
Ultimate is a fun sport to play—without the injurious aspect, that is.
For the uninitiated, ultimate is a limited contact sport that evokes elements of football, soccer and basketball, except that it involves a flying disc instead of a ball. Like any sport, ultimate primes players for injury because of the high stamina and complicated patterns of movement demanded of them.
For one, ultimate players must ‘layout’ or dive, usually with an outstretched arm, at the end of a fast run to catch a disc; this is recipe for disaster to the inexperienced. Some players may not endure the fall, leading to a compromised shoulder.
How to layout safely
It could not be emphasised enough to learn how to layout the safe way. A poorly executed dive often results in a dislocated shoulder.
Laying out is a technique that requires equal parts practice, audacity and resolve. According to P. Marfleet of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a diving player must fling out his legs straight while keeping the arms fully extended and the knees together. That is, the entire body should be parallel to the ground, horizontal. The full impact is buffered because the player rolls and twists as he or she strikes the ground.
Thus impact is taken on the extensor surface of the forearm, posterior aspect of the upper arm and shoulder, lateral aspect of chest wall to posterior-lateral aspect of the buttock and thigh,” Marfleet explained.
Most other experts, however, recommend landing mostly on the chest and abdomen. Placing weight and landing on the side begets shoulder dislocation as well as injuries to the hip or pelvis.
Nevertheless, landing on the chest is not entirely safe either. Many players have incurred bruises on the sternum because of chest landings. A good balance is essential then.
Also, a diving player should do well to extend only an arm instead of both, in contrast to Marfleet’s suggestions. The arm designated for catching is extended to avoid landing on the elbow or wrist. Many a player has dislocated the shoulder from two extended arms.
Also, experts today suggest players use the so-called ‘hamburger catch’ on the disc when laying out.
Conditioning and strengthening
To prevent a shoulder injury from ultimate, a player needs to undergo a conditioning and strengthening regimen both before and early during the season. The importance of properly warming up before the game could not be underscored enough too.
Layout drills must be shortened as to minimise the impact. If it is just a drill, it pays to slow down when coming into the dive—lest the player gets sidelined from the game itself due to an injured shoulder. A better way is to eliminate the running altogether from the drill. The player can just practice laying out from a standing position.
To get used to landing on the chest, a player needs to take up exercises that develop the pectoral muscles. Bench presses and push-ups are effective at strengthening those muscles as well as the shoulders.
If anything, the player need not put too much thought into the diving process. It is something that should come naturally when one zeroes in on the disc and nothing else. The body will do the rest, subconsciously, especially if the catch is successful. The fact is, being too conscious only makes a player dither over diving. With practice, one would think nothing of diving for the highest flying discs.