Returning to Sports After Rotator Cuff Surgery

Rotator cuff injuries are a common source of dysfunction and pain in athletes of all skill levels. Whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, it can be hard sitting on the sidelines when you have an injury. Unfortunately, pushing yourself too hard or too quickly after rotator cuff surgery can negatively impact your recovery.

As an experienced orthopedic surgeon at Orthopaedic Care Specialists in North Palm Beach, Florida, Thomas F. Saylor, MD, recommends doing the following things after undergoing rotator cuff surgery so you can resume your favorite sports as safely as possible.

Take your time

Dr. Saylor specializes in arthroscopic techniques and can repair many types of rotator cuff injuries using minimally invasive procedures. Arthroscopic approaches, which rely on a few small incisions instead of one large incision, often result in faster healing times. Additional factors may play a role in your recovery time, including:

Even with arthroscopic surgery, you can expect to wait several months to resume regular activities, and sometimes 6-12 months to return to many sports activities.

Start slowly

It may be tempting to jump into the deep end as soon as you start feeling better. However, it’s crucial to resume activities gradually, or you’ll run the risk of reinjuring your shoulder. When Dr. Saylor gives you the green light to return to your favorite sport, he’ll want you to start out slowly and build up your performance incrementally.

Rebuild your strength

It’s common to lose strength in your shoulder when you have a rotator cuff injury, especially if you sustain significant damage or had weakness leading up to your tear. To avoid reinjury after surgery, Dr. Saylor recommends undergoing a physical therapy program that’s focused on regaining strength and mobility in your shoulder. 

Physical therapy will not only help create more support and flexibility in your shoulder as you heal, but it will help keep your shoulder healthy after you’ve healed.

Warm up and cool down

Stretching before and after you exercise is one of the most important things you can do to avoid reinjuring your rotator cuff. Your rotator cuff is made up of tendons and muscles that work to hold your shoulder firmly in place and allow movement. By taking the time to ease these tissues into and out of activity, you can reduce your chances of developing strains and tears that can put you back on the bench.

Stop if it hurts

We’ve all heard the old adage “no pain, no gain,” but nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to your rotator cuff. After having rotator cuff surgery, it’s imperative to stop with an activity if you feel any pain again. Instead of trying to power through the discomfort, Dr. Saylor recommends resting your shoulder, applying ice, and taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or pain relievers to manage your symptoms.


If you have a rotator cuff injury or want to see if you have one, Dr. Saylor can help. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Orthopaedic Care Specialists today.

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