Topic: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

My S is a high school bassoon player.  He needs to have arthroscopic surgery for a labral tear (rotator cuff injury).  He will have the surgery this spring so he can have most of the recovery and physical therapy done with before he heads off to college (bassoon performance) next fall.  His surgeon has told him that he could begin playing some again after a week or two if he can play with the bassoon in a vertical position (perpendicular to the floor) - good surgeon, but obviously not a bassoonist.  What does he need to know from a musician's standpoint for the recovery from this surgery?  I know that you can mess up a successful surgery if you are foolish during recovery.  Any ideas/suggestions would be appreciated!

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Re: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

You didn't mention which shoulder will be operated upon -- and it makes a difference regarding times to his returning to music. If it's his left shoulder, it will not have to 'abduct,' or lift out sideways from the body, as much as would the right side. Thus, surgery on the left side might allow an earlier return to playing, if biceps/brachialis function during playing is not a postoperative issue with the surgeon (obviously, you'll have to pose this question specifically to the surgeon).

From my experience as both an orthopaedic surgeon and a performing/teaching bassoonist, it depends on what type of repair is done to the glenoid labrum (or lip -- this structure is part of the joint that helps keep the humeral head seated in its socket, the glenoid, and not part of the muscular rotator cuff). Much of the restriction on playing comes down to how effectively your son can play without using unnecessary muscles (including those that may have been cut or split in order to enter the shoulder for the labrum repair). Obviously, arthroscopic repairs preserve the muscles better than open operations.

Even though your surgeon is not familiar with a bassoonist's needs, perhaps some of the questions I've posed can be useful when you ask him or her about the specifics of playing postioeratively. If there are questions from the surgeon, please request that he or she contact me for discussion.

Regards,

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

It could be useful for you to bring your instrument in to the doctor as well as any potential physical therapist and demonstrate how you use it prior to undertaking the surgery.

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Re: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Thank you so much for your insight and suggestions.  S will have surgery on his right shoulder.  We will be sure to ask the questions you have suggested.  I really appreciate your willingness to be contacted my his surgeon if necessary.

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Re: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

My S had his shoulder surgery May 15th on his right shoulder.  A bankart repair (anterior) was done arthroscopically.  He also had a torn ligament in the area that had to be sutured.  So 4 weeks in a sling and swath with no PT to let the ligament heal.  The surgeon thinks it will be another 4 weeks after that before he should play his bassoon.  After the first few days he has been able to control the pain with ibuprofen, so we are grateful that things are going so well.  He has resigned himself to doing what he can to prepare for ensemble auditions at college in the fall, but not to push things too quickly.
Thanks.

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Re: Shoulder Surgery Recovery

Glad to learn that surgery went well. I was not aware that his shoulder was dislocating --the usual reason for performing a Bankart repair. The sling keeps his shoulder in 'internal rotation' with the wrist next to his abdomen -- and it will be an easy change after 4 weeks to start bringing that elbow away from his body while maininting internal rotation. This, of course, would be the same position needed to play bassoon -- so it might be possible for him to resume playing earlier than the total of 8 weeks from surgery. At least he can begin to try holding the instrument with both hands and see when his right arm will allow the playing position.

Meanwhile, he should be blowing on his reed and reed/bocal combination to maintainhis chops, as well as holding the instrument vertically in from of him to keep finger action going -- this would not interfere with his postoperative instructions.

Good luck!

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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