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PREVENTION

Trainers and team doctors said that it's not unusual for pitchers to have abnormality in the cuff. Tears are unpredictable.

RECOVERY

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.

LONG-TERM OUTLOOK

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.

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