Returning to CrossFit After Rotator Cuff Repair

pain performance physical therapy May 03, 2021
Rotator Cuff Repair
Injury rates in CrossFit are similar to those in Olympic lifting, running, gymnastics, and military training. Despite the misinformation that was spread about high injury rates in CrossFit, the injury rates are actually similar to other lifting sports.
That being said, injuries do happen. The most common body part reported to be injured via CrossFit training is the shoulder. This is likely because the shoulders are used in a multitude of full-body functional movements and have to be able to move through a full range of motion as well as stabilize weights in various planes.
When it comes to shoulder injuries, one of the most common serious injuries is a rotator cuff tear. This typically leads to pain and dysfunction with normal activities as well as CrossFit exercises. Research surrounding rotator cuff repairs shows similar results as non-surgical management. But what about for people performing high-intensity exercise? Do CrossFit athletes require surgical repair of the rotator cuff tendons when torn? Are CrossFit athletes likely to return to their sport successfully after a surgical rotator cuff repair?
A study was published in April 2020 to start to answer these questions. The study included 22 CrossFit athletes who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, some with additional procedures such as a biceps tenodesis and participated in a 24-month follow-up evaluation. 100% of the athletes returned to CrossFit at an average of 8.7 months after surgery. 91% of the athletes reported returning to CrossFit at or above their prior level of fitness.
Now this study is only a case series including 22 athletes, so it does have its limitations. That being said, these findings are very promising. Often we recommend avoiding surgery as long as possible. It’s nice to know that you can return to CrossFit at your current level of fitness or better after going through such a big surgery.
Corey Hall, PT, DPT

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