Ortho Corner: Playing tennis after rotator cuff surgery

Ortho Corner
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With the excitement of the U.S. Open still swinging and heat waves finally breaking, many Philadelphians might be excited to get on the tennis court and work on your game. But what do you do if you have been having rotator cuff problems? Or an even bigger question, when can you get back out there if you have had a rotator cuff repair?

Dr. Daniel Davis, of Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, provides insight.

Dr. Daniel Davis Provided

Can I play tennis with a rotator cuff injury?

If you are not having pain with activities, it is ok and healthy to keep doing them to maintain mobility and strength. If, however, you are having any discomfort or weakness, especially with overhead motions, it would be advantageous to have your shoulder evaluated.

Will playing tennis make a partial rotator cuff tear worse?

This is a difficult question, but the short answer is again, to limit any activities that cause pain. If you can stretch and warm up your shoulder and play without pain, then tennis is unlikely to directly make a partial rotator cuff tear worse.

If I need a rotator cuff repair, will I every play tennis again?

Yes! The road is long, however, because it takes about 3 months for the strongest tendon fibers to reattach to the bone after repair. During these 3 months, recovery will focus on early immobilization followed by progressive, passive stretching of the shoulder. After those 3 months, you will then want to spend about 6-8 week building strength and coordination in the shoulder before you attempt a playing a full match. During this time, your strength will improve and you can start working on ground strokes. Full play with overhead shots will probably take at least 6 months from the time of surgery. While it seems daunting to sign up for such a significant undertaking, the reward at the end is a shoulder that should have less pain and more function than before surgery.

Always remember that prevention is the best strategy for any sports related injury. Be sure to stretch and warm up before play and always focus on keeping your shoulders healthy with a routine shoulder strengthening program.

Daniel Davis, MD, MS is a shoulder and elbow surgeon and sees patients in Blue Bell, Chalfont and Willow Grove. For more information, visit RothmanOrtho.com.