It was announced this week that Kobe Bryant, the star of the Los Angeles Laker’s basketball team sustained a rotator cuff tear during a game on Friday while making a two-handed dunk shot. The rest of his season is in peril as he seeks additional opinions decides on whether he should have rotator cuff surgery for his injured rotator cuff.

Rotator Cuff Tear

A torn rotator cuff is a common orthopedic problem for both athletes and non-athletes. It can occur as a result of trauma as appears to be the case for Kobe Bryant, but can also occur as a result of a degenerative breakdown. Most rotator cuff tears occur in patients between 40 and 75. In older patients the tear is often a consequence of progressive shoulder impingement a process by which the tendon rubs against a bone spur causing progressive fraying and ultimately tearing of the tendon.

Rotator Cuff Pain

Symptoms of rotator cuff tear are progressive and increasingly intense shoulder pain on the front of the shoulder area, often radiating down the arm to the elbow. As the tear progresses most patient report night pain, sometime severe enough to keep them from getting a good night’s sleep.

If you believe you have a rotator cuff tear you should see an orthopedic doctor for an evaluation. If your shoulder pain is being caused by a torn rotator cuff it can easily and accurately be diagnosed by an MRI test. Whether the rotator cuff pain is being caused by a tear or by rotator cuff tendinitis the MRI test will be helpful in guiding treatment.

Regardless of the cause, a rotator cuff tear does not spontaneously heal. Initial treatment with physical therapy, rotator cuff exercises and injections can often control pain and restore function even though the tendon remains torn. For many patients an orthopedic surgeon may well recommend surgery to repair the tendon. This can be done as an arthroscopic procedure with three small (4 millimeter) incisions. The tendon is sewn directly to the bone. After surgery (rotator cuff surgery video) physical therapy will progress systematically to restore the rotator cuff muscles back to full strength. After a complete course of therapy most patients can have a full return to function including competitive sports.

Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon since 1991, Dr. Steven Struhl is a highly sought after sports medicine physician for his intensive expertise in shoulders and knees, as well as being a clinical instructor with NYU Langone Department of Orthopedic Surgery. With offices in both New York and Westchester, Dr. Struhl has specialized in alleviating shoulder pain and urges athletes to look for treatment at the earliest signs of shoulder pain to avoid surgery. Contact Dr.Steven Struhl today for a consultation.