Serratus Anterior and the Overhead Athlete
Updated: Jan 15
Welcome back to The ASPR Blog! Our topic today covers a muscle group crucial to the overhead athlete: Serratus Anterior.
We will cover 3 things today in this blog post:
1) What is the anatomy of the serratus anterior?
2) Why does the serratus anterior matter?
3) How can I know if my serratus anterior is dysfunctional?
Let's dive in!
Anatomy and Biomechanics
The Serratus Anterior is a muscle that originates on the front surface of ribs 1-8 and attaches to the front of your shoulder blade. As you can see from the picture to the right, the serratus anterior has a serrated knife-like appearance.
The muscle has a few different functions:
1) It helps anchor the shoulder blade against the rib cage (prevents scapular “winging”). This gives the shoulder blade a good foundation for stability and control of the shoulder joint.
2) It helps with upward rotation of the shoulder blades when lifting the arms overhead.
3) It helps with breathing given its attachments to the rib cage.
Why is the Serratus Anterior important to the overhead athlete?
First off, the serratus anterior provides some of the necessary support for your shoulder blades to stay in a neutral position with your arms by your side. If your serratus anterior muscle is weak and lengthened, it can contribute to an increased rounding of the shoulders and your shoulder blades may sit further away from your spine. This effects all of us, not just athletes!
Second, your serratus anterior helps to bring your arms overhead (think about baseball pitchers, swimmers, volleyball players, etc). When you lift your arm overhead, a majority of that movement comes from the shoulder joint, but
there is a portion of the movement that is coming from the shoulder blade. The serratus anterior, along with other muscles, helps facilitate proper upward rotation of the shoulder blade. This upward rotation enables athletes to get into proper overhead positioning when performing athletic movements, such as throwing a ball or catching a pass.
When the shoulder blade doesn’t upwardly rotate properly during overhead movements, it ends up putting more strain on the shoulder joint. This can result in excess stress being placed on the AC joint (where your collarbone and shoulder blade connect), and on the tendons of the rotator cuff.
The most common sign of serratus anterior dysfunction is winging of the scapula. This can come from an issue with the nerve supplying the muscle, or from a weak or lengthened serratus anterior muscle.
How can I know if my serratus anterior is dysfunctional?
The only tried and true way to do this is to get a thorough assessment performed by a trained professional. Similar to having your blood pressure taken or getting regular blood work done at the doctor’s office, certified health professionals can regularly assess your joints and movement patterns to ensure they are within optimum ranges. That’s where Aviator Sports Performance & Rehabilitation comes in!
Aviator Sports Performance and Rehabilitation is deeply rooted in the scientific study of human movement and the innovative integration of technology into practice, ultimately aiming to help patients, athletes/clients in maintaining healthy, fit lifestyles, reduce injury risk, and achieve higher levels of sports performance. Our highly trained staff (Composed of Doctors of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialists & Biomechanic Specialists) & state-of-the-art movement screening services can help identify any significant abnormal movement patterns or strength limitations present, and work to provide our clients with a fully customized corrective action plan to mitigate injury risk and help improve performance.
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