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Returning to Sports After a Rotator Cuff Injury

The mobility in your shoulder makes it vulnerable to injury. Repetitive use, especially in sports, can lead to injury. Pitch a softball one too many times or swing a racquet with poor form and your rotator cuff may suffer.

The rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that cap the shoulder joint. The unit is instrumental in lifting and rotating your arm. The rotator cuff actually keeps your upper arm bone stable within your shoulder socket.

If you experience a strain, tear or another injury to the rotator cuff, even due to sports play, you’re not necessarily down for the count. You can recover from a rotator cuff injury and go back to successful play – but you must be cautious in your rehabilitation. 

The experts at Orthopedic Associates Of Southwest Florida, overseen by Edward R. Dupay, Jr., DO, help patients in the Fort Myers, Florida, area overcome rotator cuff injuries so they can get back to the sports and activities they love.

Rotator cuff and sports

You can suffer a rotator cuff injury at any age, but if you’re older than 40, you’re at particular risk. As you get older, your soft tissue is more easily compromised.

Sports that involve repetitive shoulder movements also put you at risk for a rotator cuff injury. This includes archers, tennis players, and pitchers. People with jobs that involve lots of overhead or repetitive movements, such as painters or carpenters, are also at risk.

Another possible way to injure your rotator cuff is during a fall or when you’re tackled. If you fall onto an outstretched arm, you can tear the rotator cuff.

Rotator cuff injury types

The rotator cuff is made up of soft tissue. You may tear the tendon partially – so it’s not completely severed – or fully. A full tear means you’ve separated the tendon from the bone.

Soft tissue can take time to repair, so you have to be cautious when returning to sports. Going back into the game too soon can reinjure the area.

Recover with care

If you’ve had surgery, you’ll undergo physical therapy to help you restore movement. It’s important that you do these movements at home as well as at your regular appointment. Even if the movements seem passive or too simple, they’re a critical part of healthy recovery.

Physical therapy starts with small movements to help you develop stability and range of motion. With time, you regain functional movement. The treatment can be tailored to you and your movement goals, according to the sport you play.

Move and sleep intentionally

Certain movements can interfere with rotator cuff healing and your return to sports. Avoid lifting heavy objects or putting weight on your shoulders. Also, you shouldn’t reach behind your body or raise your arms overhead. Even moving your arms out to the side can compromise healing. Wear your sling as ordered by Dr. Dupay to help keep you from accidentally overworking the shoulder.

The way you sleep also matters to your recovery. Prop yourself up with pillows as you sleep; avoid laying on your back or on the affected shoulder’s side.

Follow the doctor’s orders

You may be tempted to shortcut your recovery time as you start to feel better. Don’t. If you test your arm, or “try” a few throws or swings before we’ve cleared you, it’s very likely you’ll cause reinjury and set your healing back.

Remember that rotator cuff injuries can take several months to heal. You may grow frustrated during this time as you feel left out of your favorite sport. But, if you stay on track and gradually add in movements as directed, you improve your chances of returning completely to your sport.

How you treat your shoulder in the weeks and months after a rotator cuff injury can make or break your ability to return to sports. Faithfully follow the protocol provided by the team at Orthopedic Associates Of Southwest Florida to heal as quickly as possible. Call our office or book an appointment online today

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