As lead team physician for the Los Angeles Rams and the director of primary care sports medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, Casey Batten, MD, relies on more than a decade of experience in sports medicine. Moreover, Dr. Casey Batten draws on an in-depth knowledge of common athletic injuries, including various shoulder injuries.
For pitchers and other athletes who engage in frequent overhand throwing, shoulder injuries are a common risk. One such injury is a tearing of the rotator cuff tendon, which undergoes high levels of stress in the follow-through of a throw.
The rotator cuff helps to keep the arm in the shoulder joint by attaching the humerus to the shoulder blade. The tendons’ role is to cover the head of the humerus so that a person can lift and rotate his or her arm. Repetitive performance of these movements can cause the tendon to fray and, ultimately, tear, either partially or fully.
A partial tear will leave the tendon attached to the bone, but a full-thickness tear will cause a complete separation. Either can be the result of degeneration over time or an acute injury, such as a fall or lifting something beyond one’s level of strength.
Approximately 80 percent of patients can recover without surgery. For these individuals, a combination of medication, rest, and strengthening exercises help to return function. For those whose pain or function do not improve, surgery may be necessary.