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Discussion: Rotator Cuff Surgery or not?

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June 24, 2017
cuda65
56 posts
Rotator Cuff Surgery or not?
Need some help or more accurately some personal experience with the operation. Fell off of my bicycle on wet railroad tracks and sustained a rotator cuff tear. Specifically a complete tear of the supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendons. That was four months ago and I just recently got an MRI which indicated the specifics. I`m 78 years old and in good condition/health. I normally played SS or over the middle, but now I only can play first base. I`m concerned about the chances of success of surgery weighed against the pain and recovery time. I would appreciate any feedback from guys who have had the surgery and your opinion on my chances of success going forward. I appreciate your comments... Cuda
June 24, 2017
lb16
Men's 50
151 posts
Not gonna sugarcoat it had rotator cuff surgery in 2012. the worst therapy and recovery i have ever had to endure. but I am back playing infield ss, 3rd, 2nd. I would not be playing at all had I not had surgery. I am 53 was 49 when I had surgery. I took almost a year off to get fully healed.
June 25, 2017
TexasTransplant
Men's 70
512 posts
I will pretty much echo what lb16 said. The recovery is tough. I have had both shoulders done: right (throwing arm) in 1999, at 55, and left in 2009 , at 65. The recovery time to get back to playing ball was about six months in both cases, but it took the better part of a year to get back to throwing full strength. I wouldn't count on playing SS effectively until you're a year out. And I would make all those time frames contingent on really pushing the rehab hard. For the throwing arm, I did three therapy sessions a week for about four months, plus 30 minute sessions at home each morning and night up to and past the time I started playing. The non-throwing arm was a little easier.

Batting came around a lot quicker than throwing for me.

Either the procedure changed or my left arm was not injured as badly as my right. I have about a three inch scar on my right shoulder and only three little spots where they did an arthroscopic procedure on the left.

I found that my therapist tended to treat me like an old fart when I first went in. I had to challenge him a little bit. Once he realized I was serious about getting back to playing ball and not just being able to tend the garden, the therapy got a lot more rigorous than I observed other guys my age getting.

The good news is, my throwing arm was probably stronger after the rehab than before I injured it.

One of the most difficult things about the recovery was sleeping with my arm in a sling. I had a cuff for my shoulder which was attached to a little ice chest like device with a pump that circulated cold water around my shoulder continually while I slept and that was a great help.

I guess at our ages you have to way the potential lost playing time against being able to get back to playing your favored positions at as high a level as you're capable of. In my case, if I had been that limited, I probably would have quit years ago, so I figure the surgery has bought me another 18 years of playing time (and counting).
June 25, 2017
Turbobob
Men's 65
58 posts
Cuda, definitely have it done.
I've had it done on both my right (2014) and left (2015) shoulders, and am 72. Prior to each arthroscopic surgery, I was able to bat, throw and pitch underhand, but not able to lift either arm above my shoulder without a lot of pain. Played 2nd base and pitched with limited range.

With the sling on for 3 weeks, try sleeping in a reclining chair for the first week before trying to sleep in a bed. If you have an adjustable bed, raise the head almost upright. That helped me during my 2nd recovery to get a decent sleep with the sling.

It goes without saying to start the passive therapy early (after 2 weeks) if your surgeon doesn't suggest it first. Then work into the active therapy for the duration. After therapy is done, make those exercises a part of your daily/weekly routine for at least 9 months, then cut back on them a little in duration, but continue them for a few years afterwards.

This is what I did and now his season, 2017, I can say I have fully recovered from both surgeries, and it shows, because I can make the throw from any infield position to 1st base with speed and on the fly. During recovery, opioid pain killers had NO effect whatsoever to ease the pain, so I had to tough it out using Advil.

Keep the faith during your ordeal. You will recover fully.
June 25, 2017
cuda65
56 posts
First of all I want to thank SSUSA for providing the forum that will allow players to ask for opinions and allow various guys to contribute their experiences that can be so helpful for making a more thoughtful decision. Specifically , so far,Ib16, Texas Transplant, and Turbobob have given valuable advice. BUT guys consider this I`m 78. Am I willing to give up at least six months for a recovery that may not happen. I presently have 80 to 85 % full range of motion. I ride a motorcycle both here in Cleveland and Texas. Texas Transplant made a great point: when you weigh the pluses and minuses, the decision becomes more difficult. I play for a 75 team and an 80 team out of Michigan and my hitting has not suffered. I can play first base and live with the fact that I will never be able to throw as before. I meet with the head of the Orthopedic Surgery department at Cleveland Clinic on July 3rd. Let`s see what he says. Remember, these are complete tears of the two tendons. Thanks guys, I`ll keep you informed.
June 25, 2017
Rainmans
41 posts
After the surgery, I couldn’t lift my right hand without help from my left hand. I started PT (was painful) the following week after the surgery and continued for 8 weeks (2 times/week). I also did daily exercises (stretching, elastic bands…) at home. I was fortunate my therapist was a baseball pitcher and he said it would take a year to be at 100%. He stated swinging a bat wouldn’t be an issue early in the recovery cycle but my throwing ability would be limited. He warned me to be careful throwing the ball too hard/early as I could reinjure the shoulder (didn’t want to relive that pain again) because the tissues soft and are still healing. I began playing catch (approx. 10-20 feet) with my wife after 2 months and began throwing a tennis ball at a wall (40 throws increasing – over time - to 100 throws per day). I played in a tournament about 4 months after surgery. Swing the bat was okay but I could tell I didn’t have the strength/power I had prior to the injury. I also did not throw the ball hard (lobs and relays). I began lifting light weights (5 lbs.), push-ups (5), and other exercises at 4 months and have slowly increased the weight and repetitions.I'm at 100% and I feel as though I throw the ball as hard, if not harder, than I did before the surgery.
June 25, 2017
cuda65
56 posts
Rainmans, you are a strong dedicated man. How old were you when you had the surgery? I recently played in a Tournament in Columbus , Ohio and I of course could only play first base. With a man on first and a lefty up to bat, he hit a ground ball to me and I bowled the ball to the SS covering the bag. Same Tournament with bases loaded, a right hand batter hit me a one bouncer and I again bowled the ball home to force out that runner. Key question: Are the gains at my age worth the effort necessary to recover the ability to throw? I will play 80 next year. If I play another 3 years is it worth it? You guys were in your 50`s and 60`s and had 20 years of playing in your future. Think about that. By the way, Columbus had those rubberized infields, so bowling for dollars was easy.
June 26, 2017
Mannjo
50 posts
Cuda65, I have been lucky enough to not have had this surgery. I play with many guys who have had it. They all mirror the remarks other players have told you. But the guys I played with are glad after the long and hard PT that they had it done. I do just want to,point out something to you. My wife fell and torn her rotator cuff. She was just going to try a cortisone shot and PT . The surgeon told her if she waited ,because of the damage , she could develop what is called frozen shoulder. They put her in PT while she waited to have the surgery. This was to keep from becoming what he called frozen shoulder. Just a heads up. When you see your physician ask the question about frozen shoulder. Good luck in your endeavor. It is at least a six month recovery time frame.
June 26, 2017
softball4b
Men's 65
1096 posts
Rainmans was probably 57 or 58 at the time of the surgery. I can attest that you did not want to run on his arm before and those that ran on him during the rehab don't try it now. And for a guy with a strong arm, he hits the cut off a majority of the time.

Mike Adair
June 26, 2017
Slowest Pitch
Men's 75
18 posts
Cudaa65, Mannjo made my point. A frozen shoulder is not something you want. If that happens, shoulder replacement is on the horizon.
I had 2 rotator cuff surgeries same shoulder -right, my throwing shoulder. 1st when I was 60, 2nd when I was 71. Currently 78, and Doc said cannot be a 3rd.
I have a friend that did not have the surgery, his shoulder froze, and the only solution was replacement. Speak to your Orthopedic guy with that in mind.
I still play, but I'm very careful of my throwing, and the position I play.
Bill Enos
June 26, 2017
Rainmans
41 posts
Wow Mike (sofball4b)! You've got a great memory to remember how old (58) I was when I had the surgery. Damn, I must have a bad case of O.L.D disease because I had to look up my medical records to find out when I had the surgery.

Cuda65, it took me about 1.5 years to get back to where I felt comfortable and I could throw the ball hard again without fear of re-damaging my arm. My recommendation, if you consider surgery and play ball, would be diligent with the physical therapy and include an exercise program to continue to strengthen your shoulder. I was driven because I wanted to play again so I was willing to do what it took to get me back on the field.
June 27, 2017
rightrj1
Men's 55
274 posts
Thanks Guys,
This encourages me to get the surgery.. :)
I've had an shoulder issue for about an year or so.

That's the best part of my game and the funny thing is, guys have been running on me and taking advantage of my injury and it's OHHHH so frustrating watching them run .

Anyone know an good Surgeon, in the Los Angeles Area? I hear a good Surgeon really makes a different! LOL
June 27, 2017
Rainmans
41 posts
My shoulder surgery was performed by Dr. Reuven B. Minkowitz. He performs knee, hip, and shoulder (his specialty) surgeries and replacements. In his free time, he competes in several triathlons (very good physical condition and had to keep my significant other away from him) every year so he fully understands being physically active. He understands how important it is for us to want to get back into the game.
June 27, 2017
DCPete
369 posts
Yeah, you'll definitely want to sleep in a recliner for the 1st couple weeks after surgery . . .
June 27, 2017
Rainmans
41 posts
DCPete - agreed!
July 16, 2017
paul0784
Men's 60
218 posts
Cuda you might have done yourself an injustice. That four month delay in getting MRI might be a problem. Happened to me and I waited and my surgeon told me the tendons had retracted so much he was hard pressed to get them back together. Hopefully it is repairable at this point. I am getting ready for reverse shoulder replacement Aug 8th. Let you know how that goes?
July 16, 2017
shortstopchic10
Women's 40
41 posts
Had three shoulder surgeries and not going to lie. It sucks! I've been playing ball since I was 5. I'm 48 I've had my right twice and back to back due to an issue away from playing but not the less... Not fun once let alone twice. Long recovery and if I ever need it again my sball days are done. My Dr also said with me getting older the chances of recovery aren't great if I need it again. I play SS currently and don't have the arm I had and that was after almost a year later and heavy physical therapy. It's a lot of work and it's very painful. I'd get a couple opinions. I had the left one done as well more from diving for balls when I was younger... BTW, my right was for a torn bicep tendon mostly. Good luck
July 17, 2017
Webbie25
Men's 65
2260 posts
I had a different experience with a rotator cuff tear about 10 years ago. I got to where I could not throw the ball 10 feet-even to having to flip the ball to the outfielder next to me to throw in. I was about 55. My chiropractor-who is also a sports medicine expert and board certified neurologist-suggested we try ultrasound on it. I trust him implicitly and said yes. He found the tear easily-I could not take the ultrasound much over the lowest setting. But after a few weeks of ultrasound treatment, I could take it for 5 minutes at full strength.
He said to go throw. My first hard throw I was on my knees in pain, but a recheck said there was no damage. I worked it out and throw decently well now. It might be worth trying this depending on how bad the tear is.
Good luck!
July 17, 2017
bogie
Men's 65
335 posts
I tore my right shoulder infra and supra 10 years ago..full thickness tear thru, but laterally thru the muscle, not where is was cut off. I opted because of my occupation and rehab questions, not to have it done. It was very weak for 6 months, but eventually healed in about a year. I did not lose much overall strength, but recently at 63 I tore the same ones again. There is scar tissue that made it more likely to tear. It affects my swing greatly now with it being hard without heavy medication to swing effectively and continues to be sore. Rest and rehab I am told will allow it to heal, but again that is not really an option for me due to work, so I am trying to work and play with it. I don't play much defense except pitch and catch, which allow me to throw underhand, and I don't see myself having the surgery, because I don't think I have the downtime to do it..so I hope to finish the season, and let it rest and rehab 3 months after worlds. I think there are better options to have surgery, rehab properly and not keep tearing it, but sometimes its hard to do what is a complicated surgery and very rigorous rehab...but not always an option for everyone. jmo
July 17, 2017
cuda65
56 posts
This is me again with what would seem to be a final decision. I really thank you all for your input. I met with the head surgeon at Cleveland Clinic a Dr. Iannotti. I`ll summarize our 15 minute consultation. He started with, "What`s your problem"? I said I cannot throw. He said " That`s not your problem" He expected me to say that I was in constant pain or could not move my arm. I told him I had 90% range of motion. He told me to get on the table. Put your hand behind your head . Put your hand behind your back. Squeezed my shoulder. "Does that hurt" No. Pushed against my hand in various positions. "You can throw" I beg your pardon? You can throw. I said I can`t throw. He said have you tried it? I said no. He said ,"I will not operate" The next day I went to the gym and threw a hand towel against the wall.. I can throw. His final comment was, " you can live with a partial liver and one kidney and you have two completely torn tendons that will never grow back. If you tear the others, you have a serious problem". I`m 78 years old how many more years can I play at a competitive level? Instead of SS or over the middle, I can play second base. I play on a very good 80 team out of Michigan and I will live with the restrictions my accident created. Thanks again guys. Cuda
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