NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mets pitcher Matt Harvey underwent season ending surgery on Monday to correct something called ‘thoracic outlet syndrome.’

It has to do with the shoulder and even non-Major League pitchers can experience the injury.

As CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez explained, ignoring the signs could be dangerous.

Pro athletes develop thoracic outlet syndrome because of intense, repetitive strain they put on their shoulders, but anyone can get it and it’s actually more common in women than men.

Symptoms include pain in the shoulder, neck, or arm, and numbness or tingling in the arm. It’s a sign of something potentially dangerous.

Sandy Niehaus always had tightness in her shoulder, but as an avid tennis player it didn’t seem unusual until one day during practice her arm suddenly became swollen and sore.

“I had a blood clot in my arm, going from pretty much the middle of my forearm to the middle of my chest,” she said.

After having the clot removed, Niehaus went to see Dr. Patrick Vaccaro at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He said the clot was caused by thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that compresses the nerves, artery, and vein between the collarbone and the uppermost rib.

“We do an operation where we go either above the collarbone or through the armpit, and we take the front two-thirds or more of the first rib out to open that space up so there’s no longer any compression on that vein,” Dr Vaccaro said.

That compression is commonly caused by repetitive overhead motion and can be seen in anyone from athletes to those who work at a desk with their arms too high.

Many suffer with arm pain, numbness, and weakness for years without a diagnosis.

“We generally subject all those people to physical therapy ahead of time to try to strengthen their shoulder, improve their posture,” Dr, Vaccaro said.

Niehaus said her blood clot is evidence that she had thoracic outlet syndrome long before she went to the hospital.

“I just thought it was like a bicep strain or that I did something to my triceps,” Niehaus said.

Now, after rib removal surgery, she’s back on the court and her tennis game is better than ever.

“It’s actually been very helpful, and it’s making me happy,” she said.

About a third of patients get relief with physical therapy to re-align the first rib at the top of the thorax.

Surgery is the fallback option if PT doesn’t help.

Matt Harvey had nerve compression from his outlet syndrome. His recovery and rehab should take about 6 months.

 

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