Handball players’ mobility and how to improve it

Handball is a sport that includes contact, explosive running, jumps, challenging one-on-one situations and fast direction changes. In addition, players need to master different techniques and good coordination skills when catching, throwing, passing and carrying the ball. That means handball players need to be in top physical condition.

Why should handball players care about body mobility?

If you have ever played handball or watched someone play it, you can guess one of the most used body parts of a handball player’s body is the shoulder. Actually, a handball player perform up to 48 000 throws per year. This makes shoulder mobility extremely important, because the high kinetic energy going through the shoulders puts them in increased risk of injury. Excessive throwing tends to increase the ROM especially in the external shoulder rotation, which can result in hypermobility and ultimately, in injury.

Handball is also a contact sport, where players encounter body contact during or at the end of the throwing action. The contact is often unpredictable and exposes the shoulders to contact in different directions.

 

We analyzed one of Sweden’s top handball teams, Redbergslids IK, to find out more about handball players’ mobility.

Team: Redbeergslids IK 
Number of tested players:
Average age: 24 

Average results*: 

7% hypermobility 
43% sufficient mobility 
50° restricted mobility

*Compared to reference values that have been gathered from anatomy, biomechanics and physiotherapy literature.

How did professional handball players do?

Hypermobility was found in two areas:

  1. Trunk Side Flexion 9% (right side)
  2. Shoulder Internal Rotators 14% (right side)

Restricted mobility was found in these areas:

  1. Shoulder External Rotators (31%)
  2. Hip External Rotators (24%)
  3. Plantar Flexors (18%)
  4. Rectus Femoris (16%)

As we expected, the biggest imbalance was found in the upper body (48 000 throws, remember). The average side difference in the shoulder area was 10° (in three measured movements).

The top 3 mobility areas were:

  1. Hamstrings
  2. Shoulder extensors
  3. Hip internal rotators

Recommended body mobility exercises for handball players

The captain of RIK-A, Tobias Johansson, showing some exercises for handball players. 

Increase mobility in rectus femoris
  1. Hold your ankle
  2. Bow forward
  3. Try to make your head-shoulder-hip-knee line straight
  4. The goal is to get into a horizontal position on both sides
  5. Repeat for 30-40 seconds on each side
Increase mobility in trunk side bending
  1. Place your left foot against a pillar and take a firm grip with your left hand
  2. Push your hip to the opposite side in a straight line
  3. Form your body into a half-arch
  4. Repeat for 30-40 seconds on each side
  5. The movement should be equal on both sides

Interested to know more about body mobility? Read more here and sign up for our FREE online education course here.

Interested in how mobility affects other sports performance? Read about mobility & running here and mobility & ice hockey here.

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