Earlier last week I was able to get in to see the orthopedic doctor to have him look at my left shoulder. He was kind enough to allow me to video the part where we talked about his preliminary diagnosis of the soreness in my left shoulder and possible rotator cuff damage.
He tested my shoulder by putting my left arm in a number of positions and then applying pressure. I was able to resist his pressure when my arm was down and when the forearm was rotated out to the side. As soon as he had me start to raise my elbow away from my side, however, trying to resist his pressure caused pain. I couldn’t lift my left arm above my shoulder at all without a major ouch.
The bad news is that he is pretty sure there is some damage to the rotator cuff. The good news is that he thinks I may have only a partial tear, which can be managed with pain relievers, ice, and some shoulder strengthening exercises.
I found this moderately gruesome picture online that shows the rotator cuff area. This pic shows a complete tear, which the Doc called a “full-thickness” tear. When that happens the tendon is separated completely from the bone. That’s not the case for me, because if there were a complete tear I wouldn’t have any strength in the arm to resist pressure. Thus the diagnosis of a partial tear.
A full tear requires surgery and a 6-month rehab. A partial tear may or may not involve surgery, but if it does it is usually arthroscopic outpaitent. Done through a couple of small holes. You are in and out the same day, and recovery time is a month or so.
He was pretty cool about understanding my desire to compete in the Worlds, so he suggested a number of possible alternatives that he thinks will get me ready. The most probable is a cortisone shot in the area sometime in the beginning of October. It doesn’t necessarily heal the area, but at least I will be able to compete. We’ll see what happens after the tournament.
The best way to tell, short of actually opening up the shoulder, is with an MRI. So I will be heading back as soon as I can get an appointment. A few days after that we’ll have a much better idea of what is going on and how to deal with it going forward.
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