Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Shoulder FAQ


I'm typing this with one hand as I sit here in a special sling after surgery for a rotator cuff tear. I'm 20-years-old with at least two years still ahead of me in college sports. I never thought something like this could happen. I work out, pump iron, and eat healthy. I wear my supportive gear. But I got tackled from behind when I had my arm raised up to catch the football and the rest is history. The surgeon says I'll be stuck like this for a few more weeks then rehab. How long does rehab take?


Being in good health with strong muscles, tendons, and bones will come in handy when recovering from an acute traumatic injury of this kind. Excellent tendon quality and mobility makes it possible to get a strong repair with fewer sutures and stitches. That can limit the amount of scar tissue that develops and help you avoid other problems later. Rehab after surgery for a rotator cuff tear begins with passive shoulder motion. You probably won't feel like you are doing much at first. It will be important to follow your surgeon and your therapist's advice, counsel, and guidance carefully for the best results. You don't want to compromise the surgical repair by loading the tissues too much before they are ready to handle it. You'll see slow but steady improvement in motion, strength, and function. When you have full (or close to full motion), the strengthening portion of the rehab program will begin. Strengthening will help improve shoulder function and stability. The final phase of rehab is directed toward return-to-sports. A specific program will be prescribed by the therapist to prepare you for the kinds of physical actions required to play your position in football. Although this type of acute high-energy injury is rare, reports published in the orthopedic literature suggest a four-to-six month rehabilitation program with multiple phases as described here. Young athletes are able to return to contact sports with full participation and at a level equal to their pre-injury status! Kimberly A. Turman, MD, et al. Massive Rotator Cuff Tear in an Adolescent Athlete: A Case Report. In Sports Health. January/February 2010. Vol. 2. No. 1. Pp. 51-55.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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