A rotator cuff tear occurs for approximately 3 million Americans each year, leading to a visit to an orthopedic specialist. This injury is common in the adult population, but teenagers and children may also develop a rotator cuff tear. A rotator cuff injury is a painful condition that involves a tear in the tissues that connect the muscles to the bones or tendons around a shoulder’s joint. It usually happens to only one shoulder and is caused by repetitive shoulder motions or lifting too much weight.
What Is a Rotator Cuff?
The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that surround the bones of the shoulder. The muscles of the rotator cuff permit the shoulder joint to move while the tendons are designed to provide stability for the shoulder’s joint.
Who Is At High-Risk For a Rotator Cuff Injury?
The rotator cuff is susceptible to injury from the repetitive motions used during certain types of sports, but this type of injury is also common in occupations that require frequent shoulder movement or heavy lifting. Here are a few of the occupations or types of sports that can lead to a rotator cuff tear:
• Bowlers – professional or amateur
• Drummers – from beating a drum with a stick
• Musical conductors – from moving a conductor’s baton
• Rodeo team ropers – from swirling a rope
• Weight lifters – from lifting heavy weights
• Cheerleaders – from waving pom-poms
• Football players – from throwing a football
• Baseball pitchers – from throwing baseballs
• Kayakers – from rowing a boat with paddles
• Medical personnel – from lifting and moving patients
• Factory workers – from using the same shoulder motion
• Construction workers – from lifting too much weight
Rotator cuff injuries are more common as people age, but anyone who fails to use the correct exercises before a sport activity is more likely to incur an injury.
How Are Rotator Cuff Injuries Treated?
Severe tears in the rotator cuff will require a surgical repair from an orthopedic surgeon. After surgery, most patients can benefit from physical therapy that helps to relax the tendons and muscles before more strenuous movements. With continuous passive motion therapy, the muscles and tendons remain flexible to avoid atrophy that can lead to additional problems with the rotator cuff. Occasionally, there is only irritation or inflammation in the shoulder that dissipates over several days or weeks with rest and the application of heat or ice.