The rotator cuff is the name given to the four muscles that surround the shoulder joint. The four muscles work together to stabilize the joint while also allowing it to move in different directions. There are also four tendons that join together to create the rotator cuff tendon which is usually the site of rotator cuff tears. When a sports medicine doctor treats rotator cuff tears in athletes, they may be either minor/partial or full complete, depending on the extent of damage caused to the tendon.
A sports medicine doctor will often see rotator cuff tears due to their occurring in response to repeated motions like those seen in baseball pitchers or tennis players. This type of injury is a serious concern to many athletes who fear it could bring an end to their sports career. Swelling usually accompanies the tears and, in more severe cases, the tendons may pull away from the bone. Baseball pitchers, football players, tennis players and swimmers are especially vulnerable but many athletes are at risk to rotator cuff tears.
Symptoms of Rotator Cuff Tears
• Arm and shoulder pain that varies in severity along with the seriousness of the tear
• Weakness and tenderness in the affected area
• Difficulty in moving the shoulder, particularly when lifting the arm above your head
• Crackling or snapping sounds that accompany shoulder movement
• Inability to sleep on the affected side and/or a worsening of symptoms when you do
Most of the athletes who experience rotator cuff tears do so over time. Sometimes athletes develop a tear suddenly, feeling intense pain and a resulting weakness of the arm that leads them to a sports medicine doctor for immediate treatment. A number of diagnostic tests may be used to diagnose the condition including X-rays, MRI, Arthrogram or arthroscopy.
Treating Rotator Cuff Tears
When an athlete experiences a torn rotator cuff, he/she will likely be advised by the sports medicine doctor to take time off from playing their sport and rest the joint without participating in any activity that causes pain. Anti-inflammatory painkillers (NSAIDs) can be used as needed along with exercises and/or physical therapy to strength the joint and restore flexibility.
The good news is that torn rotator cuffs often get well on their own. The sports medicine doctor will provide treatment to minimize pain and help the athlete get back to their game as soon as possible. For those injuries that are more severe, surgery may be required. While different surgical procedures may be used, the goal is the same: to repair the tear in the rotator cuff.
Colorado Clinic offers athletes the benefits of an experienced and skilled sports medicine doctor who is dedicated to getting you back in the game as quickly as possible. Colorado Clinic offers a variety of pain treatment options that have allowed them to achieve a success rate of more than 90%. Their comprehensive, individualized approach allows them to provide patients with the best care to lessen the impact pain has on their lives and let them get back to the activities they love.