Returning to Sports After Shoulder Surgery: What You Need to Know

shoulder, sports, pain, surgery, recover

When you’re an injured athlete, the first thing you want to know is, “When can I get back to playing?”

As the team physician for the New York Mets, Dr. Struan Coleman, MD, PhD understands the desire to get back to your sport as soon as possible. And as an experienced orthopedic surgeon, he is also dedicated to returning you to your optimal health and peak performance.

Making a comeback too soon or too aggressively after surgery, however, can land you right back on the bench. Read on to learn what you need to know before getting back in the game after shoulder surgery.

About sports-related shoulder surgery

According to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 7.5 million Americans experience shoulder problems every year. Many of these injuries are caused by sports with repetitive motions, like swimming, tennis, baseball, and golf, and may require surgical intervention.

Recovery time depends on the nature of the injury, degree of damage, and type of surgery required. The most common sports-related shoulder surgeries are rotator cuff repair and arthroscopy.

The approach to your rehabilitation also influences how much time off you need before returning to sports. Dr. Coleman and team help athletes and weekend warriors through all stages of shoulder surgery to get you back in the game.

Set realistic expectations

Studies show that the chances of returning to sports after surgery are good, but results don’t happen overnight. It’s important to manage your expectations.

Unrealistic expectations can cause you to take on too much too soon, landing you back in the exam room. Depending on the injury, you might even need to change your position, swing, or sport.

Change can be difficult to accept, but your health and ability to function must come first. Keeping expectations realistic and a positive attitude will go a long way toward a successful recovery.

Rest and fully recuperate

It’s important to let your shoulder heal before returning to sports activities. Taking things slow and keeping safety top of mind helps prevent re-injury. Allow your body to fully rest and recuperate before agreeing to return to the game.

Get (and stay) strong

If you’re looking to get back to your sport quickly and safely, strengthening the shoulder muscles is key. Physical therapy will help get you on the right path, and it’s important to stick to the strengthening plan throughout your recovery.

Before resuming play, be sure you’ve recovered most of your shoulder strength and flexibility. Use your uninjured shoulder as a baseline for checking progress. And don’t forget to maintain year-round fitness to prevent future injuries.

Warm up, and go slow

Once you and Dr. Coleman have determined you’re ready to return to your sport, remember to warm up before you play. You may even require additional warm-up compared to before your surgery. Be sure to work through your full range of motion to prevent re-injury.

Slowly increase your amount of playing time. Start small, then build up your playing time on the field, pool, or green incrementally instead of all at once. Don’t forget to cool down completely after playing.

Toughing it out could mean more sitting out

After being sidelined from an injury, it can be hard to contemplate letting a little pain stop you from playing. But pain is an important indicator that shouldn’t be ignored, especially after surgery to a complex joint like the shoulder.

If you experience pain after returning to your sport, talk to Dr. Coleman and his care team. They may suggest additional physical therapy to further strengthen shoulder muscles, or recommend additional time off to avoid re-injury.

Post-play recovery

You might not feel any pain or discomfort immediately following practice or the game, but it’s still a good idea to ice the surgical shoulder regularly. Ice helps keep inflammation and swelling down, which is especially important after surgery to prevent damage to the joint.

If you’ve injured your shoulder, trust Dr. Coleman and team to see you through your recovery to your return to sports. To schedule an evaluation, call or contact us online.

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