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The Sport Information Resource Centre

Injury to the shoulder is common in sport especially with athletes who depend on regular and heavy use of the shoulder joint, for example: baseball, tennis, badminton, weightlifting, football, golf and swimming. The rotator cuff is a group of four muscles that work together to stabilize the shoulder joint. It is a ball and socket type joint where the top part of the arm bone (humerus) forms a joint with the shoulder blade (scapula). The rotator cuff holds the head of the humerus into the scapula and controls movement of the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff tear is quite simply a tear of your shoulder’s rotator cuff tendons.

A rotator cuff tear can occur in two ways: 
  1. Sudden or accute trauma – which can occur through falling or being hit in the shoulder
  2. Repeated micro-trauma – is a tear of the rotator cuff tendon that occurs slowly over time through repeated actions and overuse.

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff tear?

  
Rotator cuff tears may be partial or full thickness tears and the symptoms vary for each.
Partial thickness tear – is when a tear does not completely sever the attachments to the bone. Symptoms may include a mild soreness in the shoulder, clicking and weakness when lifting your hand above your head or your arm behind your back.

Full thickness tears – are complete tears that include a full detachment of the tendon from the attachment site. Symptoms include severe shoulder pain and an inability to lift your elbow away from your body.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment will vary depending on the severity of the injury with most patients recovering from rest and physiotherapy. For more serious injuries, treatments may include corticosteroid injections or surgery. 

After an injury or surgery, adopting an exercise conditioning program will help you with your recovery. A typical program will last 4 to 6 weeks and should include exercises that improve strength and flexibility, and increase range of motion. After your recovery, it may be a good idea to continue performing the exercises two or three times a week as a prevention measure against further injury.

There are many exercises you can perform to help your shoulder heal and all should be performed under the supervision of a doctor or physiotherapist. Some online examples include:

If you suspect you have a rotator cuff tear, it’s important to seek the advice of your health care practitioner.

the rotator cuff, a group of four muscles that work together to provide the shoulder joint with stability. – See more at: http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/BIDMCInteractive/HealthyIs/BonesandJoints/Shoulder/CommonSportsInjuries.aspx#sthash.WRSKxOfj.dpufThe
the rotator cuff, a group of four muscles that work together to provide the shoulder joint with stability. – See more at: http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/BIDMCInteractive/HealthyIs/BonesandJoints/Shoulder/CommonSportsInjuries.aspx#sthash.WRSKxOfj.dpuf

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Gudmestad J. Arm yourself against injury: a torn rotator cuff can mean searing pain, slow healing, and even surgery. But yoga can strengthen your shoulders and help prevent problems. Yoga Journal. December 2003;(178):129-131.
2. Grossfeld S. A BODY IN MOTION. Cross Country Skier. December 2007;27(3):12-13.
3. Martinez K, Tymon G, Lentz D. THE CLINIC: Weight Training Around Shoulder Pain. Running & Fitnews. September 2011;29(5):18-19.
4. Molloy L, Robertson K. The Throwing Shoulder: Common Injuries and Management. Modern Athlete & Coach. October 2007;45(4):15-19. 
5. Petersen C. Posterior cuff training: keep the shoulders healthy with these basic and effective rotator cuff exercises. Fitness Business Canada. March 2005;6(2):52.
6. Wang R. Don’t Shrug Off Shoulder Pain!. Black Belt. November 2011;49(11):42-43. Williams K, Kilroy R. Rotator cuff injuries. Swim Magazine. November 1994;10(6):11.



The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.