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Returning to Sports After Rotator Cuff Surgery

What’s your sport? Whether it’s tennis, golf, volleyball, badminton, or baseball, you rely on your rotator cuff to swing, hit, and throw. Your shoulder joint makes it possible to perform the everyday activities you take for granted until you overwork it and tear the tough band of connective tissue inside called the rotator cuff. 

As its name suggests, the rotator cuff, which is technically a group of tendons that hold your shoulder bones together in their socket, allows your shoulder to rotate. Whether injury or age has caused a partial or complete tear, you’re likely in a lot of pain and can’t use your arm to lift a package or even brush your hair. But if you’re an athlete, your goals far exceed daily chores and personal hygiene — you need to get back in the game.

Dr. Edmond Cleeman at Manhattan Orthopedics can set you on the path toward full participation. Board-certified in both orthopedic surgery and sports medicine, he specializes in treating your rotator cuff injury with the most advanced technology. But the speed and success of your recovery depend in large part on you. Here’s what you can expect.

Surgical techniques matter

When you choose Manhattan Orthopedics for your rotator cuff surgery, you’re giving yourself a huge head start when it comes to recovery. That’s because how your surgery is performed affects the amount of time it’ll take to heal.

Dr. Cleeman uses cutting-edge arthroscopic surgical techniques that reduce the size of the incision needed to repair your rotator cuff and minimizes damage to the surrounding tissues. Using high definition cameras with 3D capabilities, he can see inside your shoulder without having to make wide cuts through muscle tissue. Less damage equals less recovery time. 

Rest is the best medicine

One of the hardest pills for athletes to swallow following an injury is forced inactivity — but immediately after your surgery, it’s absolutely the best thing you can do to speed up your recovery. Those who get impatient and forego this phase actually set themselves back and delay their return to their sport.

We recommend up to six weeks in a sling, during which time we will start some passive movement under our supervision, and then more active movement exercises for another six weeks. The goal here is to allow the tissues to heal without reinjuring them by forcing them into premature activity. 

Dr. Cleeman may also suggest a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to boost this healing process. Here, he takes a small sample of blood from your arm, runs it through a centrifuge to clean it and separate the platelets, which aid in blood clotting, and your blood’s special growth factors that aid in healing. He then injects that concentrated serum back into your surgical site, where it goes to work helping your tissues regenerate and heal faster than they would on their own.

“No pain, no gain” does not apply to your rotator cuff

Your recovery from rotator cuff surgery has a lot to do with how well you follow your doctor’s orders. It’s common for athletes to shrug off medical instructions, falling back on the motto that made them great athletes in the first place: No pain, no gain.

But when it comes to rotator cuff surgery, that mentality is a losing game plan. You need to change your strategy and understand that slow and steady wins the race in this case. It’s a tough transition for many, but those who adhere to it actually get back into playing form faster than those who don’t. 

After your initial 12 weeks of motion training, you can expect about three months of an advanced restrengthening regimen to restabilize your joint and build up the supporting muscles. These phases are only ballpark estimates; your personal recovery time will depend on:

Studies show that nearly all recreational athletes can make it back to the same level of play they had achieved prior to rotator cuff surgery. However, only about half of professional athletes return to the equivalent level of presurgery performance. 

At Manhattan Orthopedics, we team up with you to draw on your physical strengths and support your injury to produce the most complete and efficient results. If you’d like to explore more about how we can treat your rotator cuff injury and help you get back to the sport you love as fast as possible, call us today or use our online booking tool to make an appointment. 

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