Back to Play After Shoulder Injury


BALTIMORE, Md. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Football volleyball, rugby. Even biking or snowboarding can set an athlete up for a serious shoulder injury and require surgery to fix it. But how does an athlete or weekend warrior know when they can return to the activities they love? Ivanhoe has the information injured athletes need to know.

Ryan Green loves to hop on his mountain bike, for fitness and fun. He says, “It’s like being on a self-guided rollercoaster.”

But during a ride last year, Green was going downhill at about 20 miles an hour and suddenly lost control on loose gravel. He says, “I fell right on my shoulder. When you can’t even raise your arm above this point, you know, there’s a major issue.”

Orthopedic specialist Doctor John-Paul Rue determined green had broken a bone that keeps the shoulder joint in place.  Doctor Rue says, “It’s like a golf ball sitting on a golf tee. It wants to try to fall off, and the muscles and the tissues around it try to keep it in place. Because of the force, it actually punched through and broke the lip of the bony glenoid, which is the cup, if you will, or the tee.“

Surgery was the only option. Green came through with just some tiny scars to show. But one big challenge after surgery is knowing when an athlete can return to activity since there are no set guidelines to follow. Earlier this year, researchers outlined six criteria doctors and shoulder patients should consider before starting up again.

Those include pain level, range of shoulder motion, strength, endurance, the way the joints and muscles work together, and confidence.

Doctor Rue explains, “When I’m doing these tests, I’m watching them, you know, if they are not bothered by it at all or if they’re bothered by it.”

After twelve months, Green was ready to ride again.

Green says, “Doing all the exercises, doing the strengthening, doing the range of motion, it was all necessary to get back to this point, but it was all totally worth it.”

Orthopedic specialists say it’s important that athletes are aware they may not be able to return to the same level of performance as before their injury. Ryan Green says he feels fortunate that he can ride with the same intensity. Orthopedists also say there is a high rate of shoulder injuries, so the rehab and decision making about returning to play is even more important.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Roque Correa, Editor, Kirk Manson, Videographer



REPORT #3025

BACKGROUND: Shoulder injuries don’t only happen to athletes and older adults. In fact, shoulders are the most commonly injured joints for individuals between the ages of 18 to 88. This is due to the shoulder joint being very complex and having the greatest range of motion, making it more prone to strains and repetitive injuries. Shoulder injuries cause severe pain that can lessen an individual’s mobility and strength, affecting their daily activities. Many people choose to delay or ignore their shoulder pain, thinking it will heal or get better over time. Shoulder injuries can typically be treated without surgery. The main goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, decrease pain, strengthen muscles, and improve the range of motion.


SYMPTOMS AND RISK FACTORS: Shoulder sprain or strain symptoms depend on the severity of the injury. They can range from mild to severe and include pain at the front of the joint; tenderness when pressing on the area of the injury; swelling that develops rapidly; inability to move the shoulder; or instability in the shoulder joint. A shoulder sprain or strain can be diagnosed in a full exam with a doctor, or an MRI may be necessary to determine the severity and location of the injury. A variety of factors contribute to shoulder injuries. One factor includes sports. People who participate in sports that require repetitive motion in the shoulder are at higher risk for a shoulder sprain or strain. Another factor is fatigue. You are more likely to overextend your shoulder when you are fatigued. And another factor is improper warm-up. People who do not properly warm up before physical activity are more susceptible to shoulder sprains or strains. Someone who has a mild to moderate shoulder sprain or strain. They may be able to return to normal activities within one to two weeks. However, moderate sprains or strains may take as long as six to eight weeks before you can resume day-to-day shoulder activities.


BREAKTHROUGH ROTATOR CUFF TREATMENT: A new way to regenerate muscle could help repair the damaged shoulders of millions of people. The technique uses advanced materials to encourage muscle growth in rotator cuff muscles. A team of researchers from the UConn School of Medicine led by Dr. Cato Laurencin, a surgeon, engineer and scientist, reports that a graphene/polymer matrix embedded into shoulder muscle can prevent re-tear injuries. When they used it to repair the shoulders of rats who had chronic rotator cuff tears with muscle atrophy, the muscle grew back. When they tried growing muscle on the mesh in a petri dish in the lab, they found the material seemed to encourage the growth of myotubes, precursors of muscle, and discourage the formation of fat. “This is really a potential breakthrough treatment for tears of the rotator cuff. It addresses the real problem which is muscle degeneration and fat accumulation,” Laurencin said. The next step in their work is studying the matrix in a large animal.


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Dan Collins

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