Can I Still Play Baseball with a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Shoulder injuries are extremely common in baseball players (or any throwing athlete). Over-exertion and impact can result in tears in the muscles and ligaments that hold your shoulder together. This can cause debilitating pain that can hinder your performance. However, with the proper treatment, there is no reason you can’t return to the game at peak performance.
Below we’ll address some of the most common questions we get from baseball players suffering from common shoulder injuries like rotator cuff tears, such as:
- What is a rotator cuff tear?
- How can you treat these common baseball shoulder injuries?
- When can I play baseball again if I have one of these shoulder injuries?
What is a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Shoulder injuries, like rotator cuff tears, are one of the most common injuries in baseball. However, any athlete who routinely throws a ball or swings a club is at risk for these types of injuries. That includes football quarterbacks, golfers, lacrosse players, and more.
Your rotator cuff is a series of four muscles that connect your upper arm to your shoulder joint. They consist of the following:
- Supraspinatus muscle – this muscle starts over the spine and extends to the top of the humerus bone (upper arm bone).
- Infraspinatus muscle – this muscle starts under the spine and extends to the back of the humerus bone.
- Teres Minor muscle – this muscle starts at the outside of the shoulder blade and extends to the side of the humerus bone.
- Subscapularis muscle – this muscle starts at the front of the shoulder blade and extends to the very top of the rib cage.
Your rotator cuff is a critical component that makes up the shoulder. It helps stabilize the shoulder and allows you to lift your arm sideways or rotate your arm.
In baseball, rotator cuff tears can affect any player. However, it is most common in pitchers.
Types of Rotator Cuff Tears
A rotator cuff tear occurs when any of the four muscles undergo a partial or full tear. A partial tear is any incomplete tear where the muscle is not entirely severed. A full tear is when the muscle does sever, completely disconnecting from the bone.
Either of these types of tears can happen due to an acute tear (from an impact or falling on an outstretched arm) or a degenerative tear (a deterioration of the muscles due to aging or repetitive movements like throwing).
What Are the Symptoms of a Rotator Cuff Tear?
There are several common symptoms associated with rotator cuff tears. They include:
- Shoulder pain when throwing
- Grinding or popping sounds in the shoulder
- Can’t lift your arm above your shoulder
- Shoulder Weakness
What to do When Treating a Torn Rotator Cuff?
Treatment for rotator cuff tears depends on the injury's severity. In many cases, non-surgical approaches are common and extremely successful. Generally, the RICE method is the best treatment course, which includes plenty of rest, icing the shoulder, compression using elastic bandages, and keeping the arm elevated.
Other treatments include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen
- Mild exercises
- Cortisone injections
- Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) injections
In more severe cases, a doctor may recommend arthroscopic surgery to repair the torn ligaments or muscles.
When Can I Start Playing Baseball Again After a Rotator Cuff Tear?
Again, the severity of the tear will make the biggest difference in recovery time. Athletes who incur a rotator cuff tear often make a full recovery and can get back in the game playing just as well as ever.
Rotator cuff tears that do not require surgery take around four weeks to heal. Injuries that require rotator cuff surgery have longer recovery times, taking up to nine months to recover full mobility.
NY Orthopedics Specialist Office Locations
NY Orthopedics has multiple offices in New York City, including Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, as well as the surrounding counties, including Nassau, Westchester, and Rockland. If you’re experiencing any shoulder pain that you suspect may be from a torn muscle or ligament, please contact us as soon as possible.