Justin Thompson, Pitcher for the Texas Rangers
Trainers and team doctors said that it's not unusual for pitchers to have
abnormality in the cuff. Tears are unpredictable.
It requires approximately 4-6 weeks for the rotator cuff tendon to heal down
into the bone. During that time, if active motion of the shoulder is carried
out, the rotator cuff may be pulled away from its repair site. Patients begin a
formal physical therapy program at approximately 10-14 days after surgery. For
the first 4-6 weeks, patients are allowed to actively move their hand, wrist,
and elbow. Shoulder motion, however, is purely passive during that initial
period. This passive motion is carried out by the physical therapist or by the
patient with the assistance of the opposite arm. At 4-6 weeks, the rotator cuff
tendon has healed enough to the bone that active assisted and active range of
motion may be started.
Strengthening of the rotator cuff muscles begins about 8 weeks after surgery
and continues for 2-3 months. Because of the stress from pitching, full
recovery often takes a year. According to Conway, the recovery time for
Thompson will be 6-12 months. Thompson will miss the entire 2000 season.
Though Conway did not have medical data on players attempting to come back
from two shoulder surgeries, he said the chances of Thompson coming back remain
about the same. "Probably, the fact that he's had two surgeries won't
affect his ability to come back," Conway said. "After the first
surgery, he had about an 80% chance of being the same player he was before the
operation. I would imagine it's about the same."
Thompson could be ready for spring training for the 2001 season.
As for the two other pitchers who had two shoulder surgeries:
- Former Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen underwent his first operation
after the 1995 season, while with Colorado. He had more surgery on May 28,
1996, to repair the problem. Saberhagen, who was 31 at the time of the first
procedure, didn't return until Aug. 1997, 18 months later. After returning, he
compiled a 25-15 record with Boston. He encountered more shoulder problems last
year and hasn't pitched in the majors yet this season.
- Mark Leiter: Between June 1986 and November 1987, Leiter had three shoulder
procedures, missing three seasons between 1986 and 1988. Leiter did reach the
major leagues and pitched for 10 years with seven clubs, compiling a record of
63-72 and recording 26 saves.