It's true that baseball pitchers suffer rotator cuff tears -- or rather, fraying on the edges of some tendons -- because of the tremendous force they exert on their shoulders every time they throw the ball.
But overhead activity of all kinds is what tends to injure people: reaching high to paint a wall, change a light bulb, or serve a tennis ball. “Any time your arms are raised up over your head strains the rotator cuff,” said Duke orthopaedic surgeon Jocelyn Wittstein, MD. That is especially true when lifting heavier weight away from the body.
The first sign of a rotator cuff injury is often nagging shoulder pain when performing everyday activities such as reaching out to put on a coat sleeve, reaching for something on the back seat of the car, or simply shaking hands with someone. Injured shoulders can also be troublesome at night, when lying down allows the inflamed joint to swell. Occasionally, nighttime pain can get so bad that sleep is possible only in a reclining chair -- and some patients can’t sleep at all.