Returning to Sports After a Rotator Cuff Injury

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Returning to Sports After a Rotator Cuff Injury

Sports-related rotator cuff injuries occur both from sudden trauma and repeated strain over time. Recovering from a shoulder injury and returning to sports participation may be slower than you think, particularly with significant injuries.

The rotator cuff holds the shoulder joint in place with muscles and tendons. To achieve its remarkable range of motion, the socket of the shoulder is shallow to maximize arm rotation. That’s why the soft tissue rotator cuff is so essential for shoulder function. 

Injuries to the rotator cuff are common among sports participants, including those that feature body contact and overhead use of the arms. Damage can occur during a collision or by repeated strain on the rotator cuff. 

Recovery from a rotator cuff injury can be slow, particularly if you’re planning to return to a sport you enjoy. Resuming too soon could lead to reinjury or shoulder joint complications. Partner with shoulder specialist Scott Ellsworth, MD, and Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance, located in Leawood, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, to assure full and proper healing of your rotator cuff before you get back in the game. 

Rotator cuff injuries

The most common cause of rotator cuff injuries is wear-and-tear on tendons that damage or irritate the tissue. In the sports world, the overhead motions of throwing and racquet sports can cause shoulder injuries, as can the demands of weightlifting.

The rotator cuff can also experience damage from a singular event, such as body contact in football and ice hockey. Auto accidents and falls are common causes outside the arena. Tears are the most common acute injury following an event, while tears and tendinitis can result from wear-and-tear injuries. 

Treatments for the rotator cuff

Injuries that cause tendinitis or mild partial tears affecting the rotator cuff often respond to conservative treatments like rest, ice packs, and physical therapy. Physical therapy is essential for full healing since it builds the strength of muscles supporting the rotator cuff while taking the strain off the bones and tendons. That gives the rotator cuff more time to fully recover while avoiding the levels of force that could cause re-injury. 

Steroid injections can help with pain related to inflammation, but their use needs to be monitored. Corticosteroids can cause tendon weakness when overused. 

Dr. Ellsworth also uses revitalizing techniques, like stem cell and platelet-rich plasma therapies. More significant injuries may require surgery to reattach tendons or repair other damage. 

Returning to sports after a rotator cuff injury 

Minor rotator cuff injuries generally require a minimum of 2-4 weeks of recovery before returning to normal shoulder use. Returning to a sport could require longer, depending on the demands that the sport puts on your arm. Pitching in baseball or serving in tennis could require a longer recovery and more physical therapy before it’s safe to return. 

After surgery to repair rotator cuff tendons, it takes at least six weeks for the tendon to reattach to the bone and almost three months before this attachment is strong. Full healing takes between six and nine months. You may have soreness and pain in the shoulder months into your recovery. 

Because every injury has its own circumstances, working with Dr. Ellsworth assures you’re not returning to your sport too soon. Contact the nearest office through the online link or by phone to take advantage of his specialty knowledge. Book your consultation now.