Returning to sports after shoulder surgery

Being sidelined with a shoulder injury can be frustrating, but returning too early to the game can seriously interfere with optimal recovery. When it’s time to return to your sport, be smart and do so gradually.

 

The construction of the shoulder joint makes it incredibly mobile but also puts it at risk for injury. Athletes are at particular risk. Pitchers, tennis players, and golfers fall victim to overuse; basketball and soccer players may fall on a shoulder, and football and rugby players can get hurt in a tackle. 

Even if your injury had nothing to do with your game, use caution when heading back to the field, court, or golf course — especially if you had a surgical repair for rotator cuff, shoulder dislocation, or shoulder instability. 

At Austin Shoulder Institute, we encourage you to return to sports gradually once your providers have given the all-clear, and take the following precautions.

Always Warm Up

Your rehabbing shoulder needs a little extra care before play. Perform a thorough warm-up to increase circulation. Range-of-motion exercises that work your joint in all directions should be part of this warm-up. Arm circles, overhead shoulder presses (if OK’d by the doctors), and lateral raises with light weights can be part of this warm-up.

Gradually Increase Duration

When you’re cleared for play, it doesn’t mean a full-on 18-hole round, pitching for an entire baseball game, or playing an intense three sets of tennis. Start with conservative and short periods of play and gradually work your way up to longer durations. Doing too much too soon can set your recovery back.

Do Not Play Through Pain

This should go without saying, but if a move hurts, don’t do it. Pushing through pain is not wise, especially when you’re dealing with a complex joint like your shoulder. If your sport requires a movement such as throwing a ball and it hurts, talk to the care team at Austin Shoulder Institute. They may recommend additional physical therapy to help strengthen muscles necessary for the movement or advise you to take more time off before returning to play.

Ice Afterward

Even if you don’t have immediate pain following practice or a game, it’s a good idea to ice your affected shoulder to keep inflammation and swelling at bay. Just 10-20 minutes after play can help.

Adhere to Physical Therapy

Even after you’ve been cleared for play, continue your physical therapy rehabilitation exercises  — such as those with light weights or a resistance band — to keep the joint mobile and strengthen muscles in the area. This can help support the shoulder joint and improve your performance as well as protect you from injury.

Manage Your Expectations

While the team at Austin Shoulder Institute makes every effort to return your shoulder to full function, you may still have some lingering disability and discomfort. You may have to change your swing, position, or sport.

While it may not be easy to accept change, recognize that it’s best for your overall health and function. Stay positive and appreciate the great things your body can do. 

If you’ve had shoulder surgery, trust the team at Austin Shoulder Institute to see you through recovery and return to sports and other daily function. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to give the office a call or contact us online.

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