Paddling - post shoulder labral tear surgery

I’m reaching out to “older” kayakers ONLY who have had either tenodesis or tenotomy surgery for shoulder labral tears, specifically SLAP tears. After a fall on an outstretched arm while XC skiing late winter, and conservative treatments not helping, I’m looking at either tenodesis or tenotomy later this year. For those of you who have had either of these procedures, did you ultimately regain enough strength and flexibility to paddle again at or near your pre-injury ability? I’m aware these procedures have a long recovery period, PT, etc., etc., but would like to know how “normal” your paddle life is post-recovery. Right now, even a short, lazy paddle on dead calm water is extremely painful, but because retirement is synonymous with paddling…
Thanks in advance!

I had full reconstructive surgery of a shoulder in 2017. A tenotomy, ceramic screws to anchor rotator cuff tendons, AC joint decompression, shortening of the clavicle, and a shortening and re attachment of a biceps tendon. I was back in the boat pain free in 4 months. The key, I believe, was the surgeon prescribing a continuous passive motion device following surgery. I was forbidden to move the arm on my own power for 7 weeks. But; used the motion device 6 hours a day for 3 weeks. Starting pt, I had already regained nearly full motion. Yes: you definitely can fully recover. I do anything I could do previously. (am also an ACA L4 instructor).

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Thanks, jrp001, for sharing the information re: your injury, surgical repair and therapy. Your injuries were obviously far more severe than mine, and I appreciate your endorsement of the passive motion device therapy. I will keep these things in mind when my surgery is scheduled.

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My pleasure. Yes, I believe the motion device was instrumental in the recovery. Good luck!!

For such things, they always have you do PT first. Mine was clearly torn and I still had to do PT (and fail) first before moving to the next step (in cost). Predicting shoulder surgery outcomes are hit or miss most of the time as there are a lot of variables to be considered and no one knows how to weight each per person.

I had a slap repair done and was in constant pain afterwards. My range of motion was getting like I was moving towards having frozen shoulder, so I came out of my sling FT early, per doc. Long story short I was limited and in pain for 5 years until I got a complete replacement. A younger guy got his slap done a week later and he flew through his recovery easy. A woman about my age got hers done and she came out fine. Wife had hers and it limited her strength.

The joint and all connective will never be as good as the original issue. That’s a given. The condition of it before the surgery has the most input on how well the recovery will be. So this means older people recover less well than younger people. Repetitive motion is bad for the body. How much, how long, the range of motion and weight all impact repetitive motion issues.

A large part of why I got a WW canoe is because of my shoulder. I’ll be using mother nature to propel my boat downstream while I just guide her.

If it’s something you have to have done, it’s something you have to have done and the longer it’s put off the lower your chance of a decent recovery will be.
Do all the exercises and stretches you are given and do them diligently.
Motion is Lotion so moving is a must.

I guess I am “older” (74) and will reply slightly off topic. I have had multiple rotator cuff tears and both biceps torn over the years. Downhill skiing on VT ice, mountain biking, and a couple of stupid falls. I have never resorted to surgery and all have healed reasonably well. Biceps look weird (Popeye syndrom) but still function ok. Maintaining range of motion has been critical. I can still load my 40-65 pound canoes onto the top of my Tundra, while my friend who had rotator cuff surgery can’t even put carryon luggage in the overhead rack in a plane. I would go aggressively at PT starting with “walking” your fingers up a wall, depending how severe your injury is, then using stretch bands daily. It took me months to recover, not much different than recovery after surgery. The latter has about a 50% success rate, from what I have read. I still use the bands and a Bowflex machine for weighttraining every couple of days. Very happy to be at near full strength for this paddling season after missing most of last year. Good luck. I wouldn’t give up on “conservative” treatment just because it hasn’t resulted in an immediate cure. When was “late winter” where you live?

My apologies for this very late reply - family commitments had me coming and going… Thanks Dago and Walt for sharing your experiences.

PT was not prescribed but a cortisone injection was given instead to buy me some time and relief this summer. It lessened the pain considerably, but I had several systemic reactions to the cortisone and don’t want to go through that again. Paddling is still quite painful, however, so I’m still in limbo and the boats are dusty…