Rotator cuff tears refer to partial or full tears of one or a number of the 4 muscles that help move the shoulder and keep the end of the long bone of the arm within the shallow socket of the shoulder (the “rotator cuff”). The most commonly torn muscle of the rotator cuff is the muscle that helps lift the arm away from the body (the “supraspinatus”). Rotator cuff injuries may happen with repetitive overhead use of the arm, but can also occur after suffering trauma, such as after falling on an outstretched hand.
Rotator cuff tears are often a result of chronic impingement of the rotator cuff muscles, which may lead to inflammation and tearing. These injuries can also be a result of a sudden tearing of the tendon near its attachment to the bone.
SPORTS MEDICINE TOPICS
A careful history and physical exam will be performed. The latter will often include special tests to determine the strength of the rotator cuff muscles. These tests may help lead the sports medicine physician to the correct diagnosis. Additional imaging such as MRI or ultrasound may also help with making the diagnosis.
After a period of rest and non-painful physical therapy, the athlete may begin a graduated interval throwing program leading to full sports participation. However, if the injury requires surgical intervention, return to full sports activities will generally take 6-12 months.