Shoulder Health


Petanque Coach




I love my shoulder! Why is it aching?!

Our shouders are given a bit of a workout when we play petanque. Sometimes after a lot of throws we might feel an ache in shoulder. The good news is, that petanque is not a sport that is particularly hard on shoulders - at least when compared to tennis, baseball and even swimming. Any sport that requires hard over-hand activity can do damage to the shoulder structure. Petanque being an under-hand sport makes it a lot easier on the shoulder.

That is not to say that throwing in petanque will not aggrevate preexisting injuries, and weaknesses, causing aches and pains. I have a weak right shoulder as a result of past activities - throwing logs down the hillside at the farm years ago, lugging and stacking 60 pound blocks for a retaining wall... and I'm not getting any younger! Even sleeping on your throwing shoulder can cause it to ache.

The shoulder is a complex mechanism that can go out of whack fairly easily if strained or damaged. Once damaged, swelling can occur causing more damage and pain. Parts that counter-balance each other can shift when damaged or weakened...

OK, enough of that dire stuff. That's what the medical school sports medicine pages are for. Visit them at your own risk!

But once you have scared yourself about all the things that can go wrong with your shoulder... let me give some advice about taking care of your shoulder so that you can play petanque into your dotage as I intend to.

Extreme Shoulderage!

Things to do to take care of your shoulder so that you can play petanque into your dotage.

1. Before you start playing, take a few minutes to warm up your shoulder. Gently stretch and rotate it in all natural directions. Slowly go through the motions of all the throws that you will do, being sure to stretch all muscles, tendons, and connective tissues in order to allow them to be ready for what is to come.

2. Learn smooth, easy throwing forms. If you are a power shooter, and your shoulder aches after games, learn to be a finesse shooter - you'll get more carreaus and save your shoulder for dotage stuff.

3. If your present form is a jerking-from-complete-stop-to-throwing-speed style, learn a more relaxed swinging throwing form and allow gravity to do some of the work for you.

4. Use your torso when you throw. Why make your shoulder do all the work??? Discus throwers use their torso, so do baseball pitchers, and golfers - so should you. I found that by just incorporating a very slight torque into my shooting throw I was able to increase the distance of my throws and the finesse. A little torso torque has made my throws almost effortless!

5. Stop sleeping on your throwing shoulder! I did this and it made a BIG difference!

6. Do slow and easy exercises to strengthen and align the various parts of your shoulder. Go to some of the sports medicine sites and see what they recommend.

7. Start practicing your old-person gloat for when you are in your dotage beating whipper-snapper players a quarter your age.

Petanque Secret Portal!

One other thing, there are shoulder supports to help compress the shoulder if this is needed to allow you to practice more. When I was a high school track coach, shin splints was a real problem early in the season with some runners. The tissue was pulling away from the bone... so we compressed it with bandages to allow the runners to continue to train without further damage. As a result, some were able to run in the district meet that wouldn't otherwise have been able to.

I started using a shoulder support in mid 2008 when I started shooting more, thereby putting more strain on my already fragile shoulder. It made a huge difference and allowed me to finish out the year. I used one during practice and tournaments and it is worked wonderfully! It definitely let me play pain-free. It will depend on the nature of your shoulder issue but for me a shoulder support worked well. You can get them at sports equipment sites.

Another way to protect your shoulder is to tape it. There are many videos on YouTube about how this can be done. I like to use KT Tape because it is quick and easy to apply and gives just enough support to get one through a tournament.


Coach Doster on his way to a gold medal, using his left arm! Nice form and focus Coach!

Update on the shoulder support... it did help me through most of 2008... but late in 2008 it wasn't enough. I had an episode of extreme shoulder pain that brought me to the conclusion that my right shoulder is just not going to do the job. So I have switched to throwing with my left arm!

Sure it was awkward, and at first I thought that it would set me back a year or two in my development. But it is a less injured shoulder and I hope that that will allow me to practice more and become better in the long run. Early in 2009, I was making some very good pointing throws with my left arm, and could occasionally hit on iron, and even carreau, when shooting. The biggest problem was lack of consistency. The arm just had not made enough throws yet to know what I was asking of it. I was confident that improvement will come with time.

In mid 2011, my left shoulder began showing many of the symptoms that had caused me to abandon my right shoulder. To be able to continue playing I have adjusted my diet to ensure the amino acids needed to repair damaged areas, and reduced shooting practice. My left arm pointing has improved to the point that I am now doing relatively well in tournaments again - winning some, and coming in a very close second in others. So, even for those of us with gimpy shoulders, there is a place in the sport of petanque!

Even though one might have to "start over" with the alternate arm, you do not give up the strategic knowledge of the game in doing so. You will still know what needs to be done - it will just take some practice to be able to do it again. And that comes with time - an amazingly short time if you are willing to practice!

So, remember that you have two arms, and if one shoulder is bothering you so much that you can not practice and enjoy your petanque sessions, consider switching to your other arm. That's probably why we carry a spare! just in case we need it to continue to play petanque!

copyright 2007-2011 Nathan G. Doster