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  • Shoulder Expert Dr. Brett Sweitzer Comments on Roy Halladay Injury, Surgery and Recovery

    Published: 05/09/2013

    Einstein Healthcare Network's Brett Sweitzer, MD an attending orthopedic surgeon with the Department of Orthopedics at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia as well as an attending orthopedic surgeon at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery commented on this type of injury, surgery and what can be expected during recovery.

    Dr. Sweitzer specializes in general orthopedics, sports medicine and shoulder reconstruction surgery.His subspecialty is shoulder arthroplasty and reverse shoulder arthroplasty.

    Dr. Sweitzer completed his fellowship in sports medicine at the Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas where he provided care for secondary, collegiate and professional athletes.

    Dr. Sweitzer's comments:

    Phillies right-hander Roy Halladay revealed on Wednesday he will be undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery on his throwing shoulder to treat a partially torn rotator cuff, frayed labrum, and bone spurs. No timeline has been set for the date of surgery or the recovery, though he is hopeful he will be able to return to pitching this season.

    He stated the plan was to perform minimally invasive surgery, including removing the spur rubbing on the rotator cuff, and debriding the frayed labrum.

    Based on Dr. Lewis Yocum’s exam and the MRI findings of Halladay’s shoulder, it is believed to be unlikely he will require a rotator cuff and/or labrum repair. Of course, Doc will have more definitive answers regarding his timeline and prognosis for recovery once the arthroscopic surgery is complete.

    Arthroscopic rotator cuff surgery is very common, especially in overhead athletes, such as pitchers. Usually the underlying problem is something known as rotator cuff impingement or rotator cuff syndrome. This is a painful irritation of the tendons and/or fluid sac (bursa) attached to the rotator cuff in the shoulder. The tendons and bursa rub against one another whenever you raise your arm over your head, eventually leading to painful inflammation (bursitis). Often there is an associated bony spur that also rubs on the tendons and aggravates the situation. Shoulder bursitis can be very painful and debilitating and is often associated with other problems in the shoulder, such as fraying of the labrum (the lining of the shoulder socket). Inflammation leads to pain, which leads to rotator cuff dysfunction, which leads to further injury and perpetuation of the injury.

    Baseball pitchers are more prone to these injuries due to the repetitive overhead motion and tremendous amount of torque they place on the soft tissues. These effects can be cumulative over a pitcher’s season and career, resulting in a decline in both their velocity and control. The aim of the surgery is to stabilize the injuries, remove the spur and torn tissues that are exacerbating the inflammation, and ultimately alleviate shoulder pain, such that the shoulder can regain its strength, motion and function.

    The rehabilitation and return to pitching from arthroscopic shoulder surgery is variable and ultimately depends on what is done at the time of surgery. Any type of repair of the rotator cuff or labrum would certainly require more time for healing and a longer recovery. However, a “clean-up” procedure during which only removal of bony spurs and debridement of the soft tissues is performed, would mean a much quicker recovery. In fact, beginning an interval throwing program around 6 weeks post-operatively, with a return to the pitching mound by 3-4 months would be expected with the less invasive procedures. By all accounts, Doc Halladay has the work-ethic and drive that would facilitate such a recovery, so hopefully we will see him back in a Phillies uniform this season.

  • Communications Team