Scapular muscle-activation ratios in patients with shoulder injuries during functional shoulder exercises

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Journal of Athletic Training


Context: Alterations in scapular muscle activation, which are common with glenohumeral (GH) injuries, affect stability and function. Rehabilitation aims to reestablish activation between muscles for stability by progressing to whole-body movements. Objective: To determine scapular muscle-activation ratios and individual muscle activity (upper trapezius [UT], middle trapezius [MT], lower trapezius [LT], serratus anterior [SA]) differences between participants with GH injuries and healthy control participants during functional rehabilitation exercises. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Laboratory. Patients or Other Participants: Thirty-nine participants who had GH injuries (n = 20; age = 23.6 ± 3.2 years, height = 170.7 ± 11.5 cm, mass = 74.7 ± 13.1 kg) or were healthy (n = 19; age = 24.4 ± 3.3 years, height = 173.6 ± 8.6 cm, mass = 74.7 ± 14.8 kg) were tested. Intervention(s): Clinical examination confirmed each participant's classification as GH injury or healthy control. Participants performed 4 exercises (bow and arrow, external rotation with scapular squeeze, lawnmower, robbery) over 3 seconds with no load while muscle activity was recorded. Main Outcome Measure(s): We used surface electromyography to measure UT, MT, LT, and SA muscle activity. Scapular muscle-activation ratios (UT:MT, UT:LT, and UT:SA) were calculated (normalized mean electromyography of the UT divided by normalized mean electromyography of the MT, LT, and SA). Exercise 3 group analyses of variance with repeated measures were conducted. Results: No group differences for activation ratios or individual muscle activation amplitude were found (P > .05). Similar UT:MT and UT:LT activation ratios during bow-andarrow and robbery exercises were seen (P > .05); both had greater activation than external-rotation-with-scapular-squeeze and lawnmower exercises (P < .05). The bow-and-arrow exercise elicited the highest activation from the UT, MT, and LT muscles; SA activation was greatest during the externalrotation- with-scapular-squeeze exercise. Conclusions: Scapular muscle activation was similar between participants with GH injuries and healthy control participants when performing the unloaded multiplanar, multijoint exercises tested. High activation ratios during the bow-andarrow exercise indicate UT hyperactivity or decreased MT, LT, and SA activity. Our GH injury group may be comparable to high-functioning injured athletes. Study results may assist clinicians in selecting appropriate exercises for scapular muscle activation when caring for injured athletes. © by the National Athletic Trainers' Association, Inc.

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