Upper Crossed Syndrome: QB’s Need to Know This

Upper crossed syndrome is a term that most of you reading this haven't heard before. This is a common term for us in the physical therapy world and definitely a term that we need to define and tell you more about because it relates directly to the quarterback position a great deal. The problem is that nearly EVERY quarterback we work with exhibits either a piece of this syndrome or has this syndrome full blown. If you present this way, you are automatically putting yourself at greater risk for injury and also putting a ceiling on your performance. You don't want to do that do you quarterbacks? Check out today's very informative post on what this is and how to fix it!!

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What is this?

First, we need to define what this actually is. Upper crossed syndrome is a specific position that a person has claimed based on a number of environmental factors over a long period of time. The most common environmental factor is prolonged periods of sitting. When humans sit for long periods of time (we all do), we start to have these specific adaptations in the musculature and in the spine that put us in vulnerable positions when we now want to go and be active. This is especially harmful for overhead athletes. We will get to why here in a second. Let's talk about what these specific adaptations are and why this is important first.

Tight pectoral muscles/internally rotated shoulders- When the musculature on the shoulder claims a shortened position, this makes it very challenging for the whole shoulder girdle to work. We all hear a lot about the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff's main job is to hold the hold of the humerus (shoulder bone) in socket when performing any types of movement. The problem here is that when people present with tightness here, the position of the humerus is already very poor. There is now an unequal balance of position, so the rotator cuff will have to work on overtime trying to stabilize during movements, especially overhead movements. This is why a lot of quarterbacks have biceps tendinitis, supraspinatus tendinitis, or even rotator cuff strain. 


Weak neck flexors/stabilizers- This is an area that is often extremely overlooked. The deep neck flexors are extremely important on providing a stable platform for the neck, but also to create an equilibrium in the system so the other muscles around the neck don't have to over work. How many of you have pain in your neck or upper back, especially after you perform overhead movements? This might be the cause! We will talk more about how to improve this.


Weak serratus anterior/weak lower trap- You have heard us talk about the serratus anterior before. This muscle becomes very under active when a person claims a poor position like the one you see in the picture above. This muscle's specific job is to suction the shoulder blade to the rib cage and provide stability for the rest of the shoulder when a person wants to move the arm. If the position is poor, the person automatically can't perform the overhead movement that they are trying to perform. 


Tight upper trap- The upper trap, lower trap, and serratus anterior are supposed to work in synchrony when going into an overhead position. The problem is that when the serratus anterior and the lower trap turn off, the upper trap has to pick up the slack. Do y'all ever have neck pain after pressing overhead or performing shoulder based movements? This is why! There's a reason for all those knots in your neck people! 


Decreased Thoracic Extension- This is an area that isn't always included in this syndrome, but one that I thought needs to be touched on. It's extremely important to change the position of the actual spine before we even think about changing the musculature. If we don't all the work that we are doing with the musculature isn't going to change in the slightest bit. This is extremely important during the throwing motion, but also during any other overhead movement and even the back squat

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Why This Matters

The next thing that you are going to ask is why this actually matters to an athlete or a thrower. Let's list a bunch of reasons why this will matter for quarterbacks specifically:

  1. Every time you throw you will be in an unstable position in your shoulder and in your trunk. There's a reason that so many players throw over extended! Over extended means bad position.
  2. The risk of injury in the shoulder, elbow, low back, and hip goes up tremendously when overhead athletes present this way. You will get hurt at some point in your career if you have this and you most likely do.
  3. You will most likely slap a band aid on an open wound. Many times, we see ice, heat, or other modalities being put on a sore shoulder or sore elbow. There's a mechanical reason why you're in pain. If you are working on that area specifically, then you will never get better. The problem will always come back! Key concept here.
  4. You will never reach your potential as a thrower. Position always dictates movement capability. If a quarterback presents this way, then there's a zero percent chance that he will ever reach his potential. 

Do y'all realize the importance of what I'm saying here? There's a reason for injury. There's a reason for inaccuracy even though you throw a thousand balls a week. There's a reason for a lack of ability to throw the deep ball even though you throw a thousand balls a week. Position dictates movement. Mindful programming of movement dictates increased performance. Increased performance dictates improvement as a player. If the foundation isn't set, you will never get to where you want to go!

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How do I improve?

Do you think I'm going to leave you hanging on how to improve these issues? Absolutely not!! Today, we will give you three exercises on how to start to improve the issues that we are talking about here. They are listed below!!

Go Perform Now!

Guys, so we have given you a piece of the puzzle on how to fix this complicated problem. Now it is up to you to do a few things. First, you need to reach out to us because we can help you with your performance. You will only be able to do so much on your own. Second, you need to go get signed up for our camp! we are hosting a camp in Indianapolis, IN on July 20th, 2019. We will cover topics like these and then give you everything that you need in order to be successful. We are here to help fellas! Reach out if you have any questions. You can reach me at drew@theqbdocs.com or at 812-343-4226.