Everyone’s heard about an athlete who can’t play because of a rotator cuff injury, but many people aren’t sure exactly what a rotator cuff is — unless you’re one of the nearly 2 million Americans who suffer rotator cuff injuries every year.
The rotator cuff is the term for a collection of muscles and tendons surrounding your shoulder joint. It keeps the head of your humerous (your upper arm bone) in the shoulder socket and allows you to move your arm up and out.
Injuries to the rotator cuff happen most frequently to those who perform a repetitive, overhead motion for their work or their sport, such as painters, carpenters, baseball players, and tennis players. Common injuries include tears and tendinitis (an inflammation of the tendon). Treatments depend on the severity of the injury but may include, rest, ice, injections, physical therapy, stem cell therapy, and even surgery.
Athletes who’ve injured their rotator cuff understandably can’t wait to get back to playing their sport, but it’s important to heal properly and avoid reinjury. Here are five tips from the team at LA Orthopaedic Specialists for returning to sports after a rotator cuff injury.
Don’t try to rush back to your sport. If you start before you’re ready, you can make your recovery time even longer. If your doctor gives you a sling to wear, don’t give in to the temptation to ditch it. Keeping your shoulder immobile helps your recovery immensely.
You might think you know your own body better than the doctor, but trust us when we say: Follow your physical therapy program to the letter. The exercises our team or a physical therapist gives you aim to increase both your strength and your range of motion. Not only do they help heal your rotator cuff, but they also strengthen the muscles around it, which helps prevent future injury.
You should not expect to get back on the court at full speed on your first day. Your mind might be telling you to go all out, but your body isn’t ready for that, and you risk reinjuring yourself. Take it easy, and build toward your goal. Remember that soft, connective tissues take longer to heal than muscle, so you won’t return to the game as quickly as if you pulled a muscle.
Do this on a daily basis, both as a warm-up before your activity and a cool-down after you’re finished. The stretching loosens and strengthens your muscles, which helps prevent future injuries as well.
If you feel pain at any point as you prepare to return to your sport, stop right away. You don’t want to keep pushing so hard that you reinjure your shoulder. If the pain doesn’t go away with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories, call your doctor to get checked out.
While rotator cuff injuries can be serious and take some time to heal, most athletes do return to their previous performance levels. Most of all, listening to your doctor greatly increases your chances of success.
LA Orthopaedic Specialists offers cutting-edge treatments for rotator cuff injuries, and our experts can help get you back in the game safely and smartly. Make an appointment by calling our Los Angeles, California office. You can also request an appointment online.