Returning to Sports After Rotator Cuff Surgery

For as long as you can remember, your sport has been a major part of your life, from practice to games to off-season conditioning. Then in a blink of an eye, you’re sidelined due to a rotator cuff injury that required surgery. This group of muscles and tendons, which helps keep your upper arm firmly in your shoulder socket, is one of the reasons you’re able to pitch a no-hitter or place the tennis ball in the putaway zone every time.

Despite the injury and the surgery, you may be more than anxious to get back to your No. 1 passion, and you may want to know just how long you need to sit out. At Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Consultants of New York, we know you want us to say “soon,” but your road to recovery depends on many factors. Cary B. Chapman, MD, and the rest of our team will do everything we can to make sure your recovery from rotator cuff surgery goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. 

Surgery: the first step in your recovery

How quickly you return to your sport may depend partly on what type of surgery you need to repair your rotator cuff injury. Unfortunately, you don’t have a lot of control over this, as it generally depends on the severity of your injury.

The good news is, in most cases, we can perform arthroscopic surgery to repair shoulder injuries. During this outpatient procedure, we use small incisions and a surgical camera to repair the damage to your rotator cuff, which usually means a faster recovery and a lot less pain.

However, if your rotator cuff injury is large or complex, we may need to perform a traditional open shoulder surgery, which requires a large incision and movement of your deltoid muscle so we can access your rotator cuff and repair the damage. Due to the complexity of your injury and the more invasive surgery, you may be on the bench a little longer. 

Take time to recover

If you’ve had surgery, you’ll need physical therapy (PT) to help you properly restore movement. At your PT sessions, you learn specific movements that are appropriate for your level of healing and do them at home as well as at regular appointments at our office.

At first the movements will seem passive and simple, but they’re an important step in your recovery and your ability to return to sports play. They help you develop stability and range of motion.

With time, the therapists add in functional movement. The pace of your therapy and the exact exercises are tailored to your movement goals.

Your active participation

If your goal is to return to the game as quickly as possible, then you need to follow our instructions to the letter. You may not want to hear this, but we may require that you keep your arm immobilized in a sling for as long as six weeks. 

Once your rotator cuff has healed, you start physical therapy. The exercises and treatments recommended by your physical therapist help you regain range of motion and strength in your shoulder and arm. 

You may need several months of physical therapy before you’re strong enough to return to your sport. But stressing your shoulder before you’re fully ready may delay your recovery. While recovery time varies, it may take 4-6 months until you’re back doing what you love best. 

A rotator cuff injury doesn’t mean the end of your active life. With the right care, you can recover safely and get back to your sport fairly quickly. For expert management of your sports injury, call our office, or request an appointment online today.

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