Getting back in the saddle

The participation at the first Tour de Suisse Challenge was my ultimate goal for 2015. It meant more intensive training, even though most of the route was quite flat. After endless preparation on my home trainer, I couldn’t wait to get outside. On the first nice weekend I arranged to meet up with three friends who had also signed up for the Tour de Suisse Challenge. We wanted to take our racing bikes out for a spin around the lake, but after around 20 kilometres it happened – in a momentary lapse in concentration during an overtaking manoeuvre, my bike suddenly slid sideways and I crashed with my full weight on my right shoulder. I tried to brace myself against the impact, but it made no difference. My shoulder was really painful and it was a struggle to hold the handlebars.


The next morning, after an almost sleepless night, I went to see my family doctor. He asked about how the accident had happened as he examined my shoulder. I could no longer lift my right arm above my head without assistance and I also had less strength in my hand. He referred me directly to a shoulder specialist at Hirslanden, because he suspected the rotator cuff was damaged. The consultant performed an ultrasound examination on my shoulder to observe the rotator cuff in action. He also ordered an x-ray, so that he could rule out a broken bone, as well as an MRI, which would indicate the severity of the damage. After assessing all the images, he confirmed that I had a torn rotator cuff. One tendon had completely separated from the bone and another was slightly torn. Luckily, the joint itself was intact, even though a large haematoma had developed in the joint capsule and my shoulder was somewhat swollen. The specialist recommended that I have an operation, given that I’m still young and have an active lifestyle.


The shoulder specialist performed arthroscopic surgery to reconstruct both tendons. The ruptured tendon was reattached to the bone with small reabsorbable implants and the torn tendon was stitched back together.


After the operation I had to rest my shoulder raised on a positioning pillow for six weeks, so that the tendons could grow back onto the bone. To prevent the joint from becoming stiff, I started going to physiotherapy two weeks after the operation. During the first six weeks, the physiotherapist used gentle movements to passively mobilise my shoulder. After that I was allowed to start moving the shoulder myself and I also began doing my first no-impact exercises at home. Luckily I was able to do moderate cycling training on my home trainer fairly early on, as long as I didn’t use the handlebars to support myself. After just three months I started strength training using gym equipment, under the supervision of my physiotherapist.


I had my final examination about 16 weeks after the operation and subsequent rehabilitation and my shoulder specialist gave me the green light. The tendons had healed well and I had regained my strength and mobility. I was so happy, because it meant I would be able to take part in the first Tour de Suisse Challenge.

 

This report has an illustrative function. It is based on medical facts and serves to educate patients. The persons described are purely fictional.

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