By Abby Sims
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Earlier this week, when it was reported that Roy Halladay was headed to the disabled list with shoulder issues, it was almost a repeat of what happened only a year earlier when his performance fell off.
At that time, Halladay was ultimately shut down to recover from a strained lat muscle. Now he is headed for the knife with what has been diagnosed as a frayed shoulder labrum, a partially torn rotator cuff and some bone chips. At the press conference held to announce Halladay’s impending surgery, it was stressed that the 35-year-old Phillies pitcher will take whatever steps are necessary both pre- and post-operatively and won’t rush back to the field. However, it was also said that he might still be able to play this season.
Don’t count on it. The odds are not in his favor.
A lot depends on what is done in the operating room. Will the rotator cuff tear be repaired, or will the joint just be cleaned out, referred to as a debridement? The thickness and location of the tear will likely be the determining factors. If the labrum shows degenerative wearing at the edges, it may only require a bit of smoothing out. If a labral tear is evident once they are in the joint, Halladay will require a more robust surgery. Unless he has only a simple debridement, after which rehab can progress more or less as tolerated (provided it is pain-free), the immediate post-operative period is six weeks of boredom. During this healing phase, not much should be done other than to reduce inflammation, begin to restore passive shoulder mobility within a restricted range of motion and keep muscles of the hand and forearm from weakening further. It is only afterward that a progression to achieve full range and strength can really begin.
After surgery, strength is depleted by disuse and as a response to inflammation. It must be rebuilt from the ground up. When a strengthening program is initiated, Halladay may not even be able to completely lift his arm (nor should he try), never mind a weight. That explains the slow nature of the process and the reason that it takes time to reach the point at which a player can begin a throwing program.
It is likely that Halladay is looking at a minimum six-month recovery if more than a simple debridement is performed. To get to the point where he is throwing competitively, six months is even optimistic. If it is a debridement alone, a minimum of four months may be realistic. But why would a 35-year-old want to risk his shoulder and rush to return to the field in mid-September? Unless we are talking about the National League Championship Series or the World Series, don’t look for Halladay this season.
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