Football Rotator Cuff Injuries

Christopher C. Dodson, MD September 20th, 2019

Sports-related injuries comprise a significant number of the injuries treated by physicians at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute. Of the sports played by our patients, football remains the leading cause of sports injuries; in 2012 for example, over 460,000 patients were treated for football-related injuries in emergency rooms across the U.S.

Injuries during football games occur as a result of the dangerous combination of full contact and high speed running. There are a wide range of possible causes, from sudden trauma and concussion to overuse and heatstroke. One of the most common injuries seen during the football season is a rotator cuff innjury.

We know that the uncertainty that a rotator cuff injury presents to a football player’s season can be a source of great anxiety. That’s why we’ve compiled this helpful look at the treatment options available to athletes who have suffered these injuries and what to expect from the recovery process.

Three Treatment Options for Rotator Cuff Injuries

Two notable injuries of the rotator cuff include impingement and tears-both partial and total. Impingement typically results from repeated friction on the tendon and bursa of the rotator cuff, while tears occur either from gradual stress, overuse, and degeneration or a traumatic injury. 

The treatment options for both types of injuries are similar. They include:

  1. Physical Therapy
    Physical therapy is typically the first course of treatment recommended for rotator cuff injury patients. Treatment plans will typically include rest, activity modification, and a range of exercises and strengthening activities to improve flexibility, range of motion, and shoulder stability.

  2. Medication
    Pain medication and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are routinely prescribed to rotator cuff patients. In some cases, steroidal cortisone injections may also be prescribed to effectively address inflammation within the rotator cuff.

  3. Surgery
    Surgical solutions for rotator cuff injuries include open surgery and arthroscopic surgery. While surgery is typically only recommended if non-surgical solutions prove insufficient, it is more commonly prescribed for athletes who will be returning to shoulder-intensive activity after recovery.

Three Things to Expect from the Rotator Cuff Injury Recovery Process

For many athletes, the greatest concern regarding injuries is not the injury, pain, or treatment itself, but rather the question of when and if normal athletic activity can be resumed. Here are three things you should expect from the rotator cuff injury recovery process:

  1. Reduced Activity
    Your doctor will recommend rest and activity modification as you recover from your injury and the treatment process (both surgical and non-surgical). In particular, activities involving overhead motions will need to be strictly avoided for a temporary period determined by your doctors and physical therapists. Keeping your arm in a sling may also be advised.

  2. Individualized Rehabilitation
    Your recovery plan will be particularly suited to fit the conditions of your injury (severity, impingement or tear, etc.), the type of treatment undergone, and your routine activities. Let your doctor know your particular goals or concerns so that they may be taken into consideration.

  3. Relief and Restoration
    Treatment will not immediately restore full arm and shoulder capabilities or immediately relieve all pain. However, with diligent physical therapy and careful accordance with all recommended elements of your individualized treatment and recovery plan, you can anticipate regaining your arm strength and range of motion and having increasing relief from pain. Most importantly, you’ll likely be able to resume activity. Following surgery, the period of recovery typically lasts 2 to 4 months.

Preventing Football Injuries

While injuries can never be completely avoided, athletes can take a number of steps to prepare their bodies and hopefully prevent a football injury from taking place.

Often, causes of football injuries include making the mistake of not staying physically active during the off-season. For any athlete, maintaining a regular routine to keep the body active is paramount to preparing for the rigor of returning to regular play, no matter the sport. 

Additionally, regular warm-up and stretching regimens will make a tremendous difference in preparing the body for athletic activities. 

Most importantly, athletes should have excellent hydration habits, especially during colder months; it’s rare to feel as thirsty in cold climates, but the body still needs to be hydrated. In general, athletes should drink 24 ounces of a caffeine-free fluid roughly 2 hours before exercising, and 8 ounces of water every 20 minutes while exercising.

At Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, our orthopaedic specialists offer the most effective and reliable treatment options for sports injuries--including rotator cuff injuries, which can result from a football injury.

The orthopaedic experts at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute understand that rotator cuff injuries can impact much more than an athlete’s body—it impacts their athletic career and, consequently, their entire lives. We have worked extensively with these types of football injuries, from the initial diagnosis, to treatment, and the ultimate recovery.

If you have questions about the treatment and recovery process of a rotator cuff injury, the doctors at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute can help. Schedule an appointment at Rothman to receive a full examination and diagnosis, discuss treatment options, and begin moving toward recovery. To schedule an appointment with our orthopaedic team, visit us here or contact us at 1-800-321-9999.

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