Weekend Warrior Interview: Revolutionary & Career Saving Shoulder Surgeries

Dr. Petrigliano was recently featured on the Weekend Warrior podcast on ESPN Radio to discuss how the arthroscope revolutionized shoulder surgery and the field of sports medicine. He also talks about the career-saving shoulder surgeries that star Julio Urias, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck have had over the last year.

Cam Newton, the quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, suffered a partial thickness tear in the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff is a series of muscles and tendons that maintains the stability of the ball and socket joint of the shoulder. Any slight alterations in the function of the rotator cuff can be painful and lead to a decrease in throwing velocity and distance. In the past, surgeons were not able to visualize small tears in the tendon even after they cut open the shoulder. Now, we have a tool called an arthroscope which allows us to see the joint. In conjunction to the arthroscope, smaller surgical instruments were created to help repair the rotator cuff tear which allowed Cam Newton to recover after his surgery instead of ending his career.

Andrew Luck, quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, he had a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He had tried to play through the pain, but eventually, it became too severe to play.  He was diagnosed with a labral tear, and he eventually underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum.  The labrum is fibrous tissue that deepens the glenoid (socket) of the shoulder to help hold the humeral head (ball) in place.

Previously, in order to get to the labrum, the surgeon had to cut the muscles in the shoulder and take down parts of the rotator cuff to visualize the labrum. Shoulder labral surgery was much more extensive prior to the arthroscope.  After the advent of arthroscopic surgery, the orthopaedic surgeon can now easily see and repair tears of the labrum.  This surgery has allowed athletes with labral injuries to return to play with a stable, pain-free shoulder.

In the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias, he had a tear of his anterior capsule. This is a rare and potentially career-threatening injury for the throwing athlete.  The anterior capsule is a structure that acts to stabilize the shoulder, particularly for throwers.  A tear of the capsule can be painful and result in decreased velocity and control for a pitcher.  Today, these tears can be repaired with the use of specialized arthroscopic instruments.  Many athletes can return to play after this injury, but the recovery time and rehabilitation can be arduous.

 Learn More about the Rotator Cuff Repair Procedure

Author
Frank Petrigliano, MD Dr. Petrigliano s a highly skilled orthopaedic surgeon and a specialist in sports medicine and shoulder surgery at the UCLA Orthopaedic Center in Santa Monica, California. Dr. Petrigliano focuses highly on shoulder arthroscopy and replacements as well as knee arthroscopy and repairs, and only uses the most advanced orthopaedic surgical procedures available.