Young catcher recovering from rotator cuff surgery

Patient

Q: My son was a promising catcher with several colleges looking at him to play ball. He had fraying in his rotatory cuff cleaned out 5 months ago. His arm strength or throwing velocity is about 60% of what it was before surgery and still has pain. Is it possible for him to gain 100% of his arm strength back or is it likely he will never play ball in college? If a 100% recovery is possible what is the time frame? The surgeon claim it was as minor a surgery possible but was needed. In need of good news but just want the truth. Thank You.

Doctor

A:   Rotator cuff surgery is a common sports injury surgery.  Rotator Cuff tears can occur with many different sports but are most common with overhead athletes like pitchers or other throwers. Rotator cuff surgery involves either a repair or debridement of the rotator cuff tissues. Depending on the extent of the tear, this surgery can be performed either arthroscopically or as an open procedure. If your son’s surgery was arthroscopic, minimally invasive, this is faster recovery than the open procedure and also may be performed as an outpatient surgery so the patient will be allowed to go home the same day. The first step in repairing the rotator cuff is to debride the tissue. This means cleaning up the torn tissue and removing any damage. The rotator cuff tendon is like a piece of rope. When there is wear and tear the rope starts to fray. The frayed areas need to be trimmed down to good, healthy tissue. The usual recovery timeline is as follows: After rotator cuff surgery, you will be in a sling for 4-6 weeks. During this time you will not be able to actively use your arm. You can work on passive range of motion to tolerance under the direction of your athletic trainer or physical therapist. You can also work on strengthening of the scapular stabilizers and working to decrease your pain. Once you are 4-6 weeks out from surgery, assisted range of motion exercises and light strengthening can begin. Full recovery from rotator cuff surgery usually takes 4-6 months for most people, but the younger they are, the faster they heal. During this time you will be working on restoring normal strength, range of motion, and control of your shoulder. For overhead throwers, like your son, full recovery will take longer, as long as 6-12 months depending on the level of activity.

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