Sports Clinic

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This is not really a sporting injury, but it's interfering with my cricket. I was decorating a ceiling and my shoulder started to feel a bit sore. I kept going, and now when I lift my arm up I get a sharp pain from the shoulder down towards my elbow, but strangely once I've got it up there it's OK. Is this serious, and am I going to get back to bowling before the season's over? I don't plan any more ceilings.

This is not really a sporting injury, but it's interfering with my cricket. I was decorating a ceiling and my shoulder started to feel a bit sore. I kept going, and now when I lift my arm up I get a sharp pain from the shoulder down towards my elbow, but strangely once I've got it up there it's OK. Is this serious, and am I going to get back to bowling before the season's over? I don't plan any more ceilings.

Richard Lawson, Helston

You are describing what's called a painful arc. A small muscle called the supraspinatus lifts the arm up sideways, and it sits just under the bony point of your shoulder (acromion). If you use it more than it's used to it can get inflamed and swollen, getting trapped and squeezed under the acromion as you lift your arm up. When your arm is fully raised there is more room under the acromion and so less pain. Luckily, the activity that brought on the pain is not something you normally do, so the injury should settle quickly with relative rest. A physiotherapist can help it get better quicker and give you appropriate exercises to strengthen all the muscles around the shoulder. Your GP may give you ibuprofen or similar tablets for a few days, but there's no need to take these if you're improving.

I'm a keen squash player – having taken up the game three years ago, I try to play at least twice a week, and I've made steady progress up my club's leagues. But there's one shot I always struggle with: the boast. I find it hard to direct, and too often put it into the tin. How can I practise my boasting?

Allan Jones, Swansea

One of the simplest and best drills needs a playing partner, but many pros use it as part of their warm-up. The front player drives the ball towards one corner of the back court and the other player moves back and boasts it off the side wall to the front. Because the boast takes the ball to the other side of the court, the front player can then drive it to that back corner, meaning the other player has to move to the other side and again can boast the ball back to the front. After each boast, both players should try to move towards the T, as they would in a game. The nature of this drill means that the player has to practise backhand and forehand boasts alternately. After 10 minutes, the players should switch round.

As a regular runner and cyclist I don't like to stop unless I have to, or if I know I'm doing myself damage. The high pollen levels have been making me breathless, which isn't very pleasant, but is it also harmful if I continue? Should I avoid high-intensity efforts, or is it OK to carry on regardless?

Francesca Hayles, Chelmsford

If you are suffering from asthma made worse by the high pollen count, then you won't do yourself any damage. Nevertheless, you should get effective treatment to control your symptoms and check that you're right to blame the pollen and that there is nothing else causing your breathlessness. So see your doctor before you do any more exercise, particularly if you're getting any chest pains or not actually wheezing or coughing. If you do suffer from asthma and exercise causes an attack, you should find there is a window of a few hours in which you can exercise (once you have recovered from the first attack) without any symptoms. This is because the special cells lining the airways that secrete histamine have none left with which to irritate the airways. You will probably find you only need an inhaler for your asthma during the pollen season, and therefore need to keep a symptom reliever such as salbutamol for emergencies only.

I've just joined a local gym and have been told to stretch carefully before and after my workouts, in which I use the running machine, cross-trainer, rowing machine and five of the weights machines. I'm often so short of time that I cut out the stretching. Is this dangerous? Just how important is it to stretch before every session?

Bruce Wiggett, Dudley

Many sports medicine doctors and physiotherapists have tried to demonstrate that stretching is important in preventing injury, but have failed to produce any firm evidence. It's far more important to warm up properly, starting at a low level and building up the intensity over 10 minutes. Once your muscles are warm they will function optimally, so you're less likely to strain them, your co-ordination will be better and they will be able to stretch to their full extent. Stretching will have no effect on your risk of injury, but over several weeks may lead to increased range and so less chance of a strain (that is the theory which has yet to be proved). Whatever the truth, there is absolutely no point in stretching until you are fully warmed up. In fact, it's positively dangerous. It's best to stretch at the end of the session if you have time. However, a warm-down over five to 10 minutes is more important. So it's OK to cut out the stretching if you're short of time, but don't cut the warm-up or wind-down.

Alongside Dr Richard Budgett, medical director of the British Olympic Association, this week's panel included former squash world No 2 Peter Marshall

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