Returning to Sports After a Rotator Cuff Injury

Jun 09, 2023
Returning to Sports After a Rotator Cuff Injury
Ready to jump back into action after a rotator cuff injury? Not so fast — first, listen to your doctors, who have a plan for your recovery. Read on to find out more!

Of the 2 million-4million Americans who suffer a rotator cuff injury every year, a good number are athletes whose immediate thought after getting hurt is, “When can I play again?”

Whether you’re a recreational player or a professional athlete, the answer is the same: Your recovery time depends on the type and severity of your injury, how closely you follow your rehab plan, and the type of sport you play.

The expert team at Carolina Joint and Arthritis in Wilmington, North Carolina, is dedicated to get you safely back to your desired sport or activity as quickly as possible. Here’s how that can happen.

What is a rotator cuff injury?

Your rotator cuff is made up of four muscles and the tendons that surround your shoulder joint. It gives the joint stability by helping to hold the ball of your upper arm bone (the humerus) in place, and it allows you to lift and rotate your arm.

Because your shoulder can move so much, it is subjected to lots of force. This force can cause injuries to the rotator cuff that range from partial tears of the tendon to full tears, in which the tendon detaches from the bone.

These injuries can occur because of a traumatic incident such as a fall or lifting something heavy, or they can be caused by repetitive motions over time if you have a job that requires a lot of overhead movements (such as painting) or if you play a sport such as tennis or swimming that requires repetitive overhead movements of your arm.

How are rotator cuff injuries treated?

Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment can include ice packs, anti-inflammatory medications, steroid injections, physical therapy, and even surgery.

Your doctor will generally start with conservative treatments to see if they are effective before moving to the last resort of surgery. If you do need surgery, it will likely be at least several months before you can return to play in your chosen sport; some injuries may require up to a year before full recovery takes place.

How can you increase the chances of a faster return?

You can do several things to increase the chances of a quicker return to the field or court. Even though you’re anxious to get moving, start with rest. Pushing yourself too far, too fast will only end up delaying your recovery. Wear your sling after surgery as prescribed to keep your shoulder as immobile as possible.

You should also listen to your physical therapist and your doctors and follow their rehabilitation plans exactly. They have treated many of these injuries in the past, and they know what works to rebuild your strength. Listen to them!

Finally, be sure to increase your effort gradually over time. Don’t push back to full speed as soon as possible. Give it time and listen to your body. If it’s telling you to slow down for a bit, take it easy so you don’t reinjure yourself.

If you’re dealing with a rotator cuff injury and need treatment, the team at Carolina Joint and Arthritis is here to help. Just call our office or use our online scheduler to book an appointment today so you can get back to your sport as soon as possible!