5 Tips for Returning to Sports After Rotator Cuff Surgery

If you’re having trouble with your rotator cuff, you’re not alone. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, two million people a year visit a doctor because of a rotator cuff problem. Additionally, 200,000 people require surgery to repair a completely torn rotator cuff, while another 400,000 people have surgery for tendonitis and partial tears.

There are many things that can cause a rotator cuff injury, including age, occupational hazards, and genetics, but sports that require repetitive arm motions — such as baseball, archery and tennis — are some of the worst culprits. If surgery to repair a rotator cuff injury has kept you on the sidelines, you’re probably itching to get back in the game. By following the tips below, you can prevent reinjury and make your return a safe one.

And if you’re dealing with rotator cuff issues, the doctors at San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center can diagnose and treat your injuries and get you back on the diamond, range, or court before you know it.

Rotator cuff basics

The shoulder joint is made up of a complex group of tendons and muscles that form a cuff around your shoulder. Your rotator cuff attaches your upper arm bone to your shoulder blade, and it helps you lift and rotate your arm.

Rotator cuff injuries

When your rotator cuff is torn, the tendon is no longer fully attached to the upper arm bone. This weakens your shoulder and makes activities that require you to lift your arm, such as brushing your hair or putting on a shirt, hard and painful.

When left untreated, the tendon can begin to fray and may eventually tear completely. Some partial tears are able to heal with rest and physical therapy. Severe partial tears and complete tears, though, need to be fixed with surgery.

Getting back in the game

Most sports-based rotator cuff injuries come from repeated motions of the shoulder. Repeated motions can stress the tendons until full or partial tears occur. Baseball pitchers are famous for getting rotator cuff injuries. Here’s how to make sure your return is smooth:

1. Give yourself time to heal

We often view sports as a battle and idolize players who succeed despite sickness or injury. While this attitude has admirable roots, it’s not the best course of action for your rotator cuff. After surgery, you should only return to your sport once the pain and inflammation are completely gone.

2. Start slowly

Tennis players shouldn’t come back and start trying to serve high-speed aces. Take time to ease back into the game. After getting approval from your physical therapist, return to your activities slowly.

3. Move without weights

Start your physical therapy with non-weight bearing exercises. You need to move your shoulder with care. Lifting objects too soon may put too much pressure on it.

4. Work your other muscles

While many of your exercises will focus on your rotator cuff, don’t forget that the muscles of your chest and other arm will likely need some rebuilding as well.

5. Don’t ignore pain

If something hurts, stop. Continuing may reinjure your rotator cuff. If you feel pain, rest your shoulder and put ice on it.

If you have a rotator cuff problem or want to learn more about recovering from a rotator cuff surgery, book an appointment online or over the phone with San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center today.

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