Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Fisherman’s Shoulder Operation: Rotator Cuff Repair

The year before last I hurt my shoulder fishing!  No, it was not fly fishing.  I did it on the beach chucking 4 ounce weights using a long beach caster rod and a fixed spool reel.  (My friends in the USA call it gear fishing.)  The target was a shoal of mackerel swimming up the English Channel.    I was putting a lot of muscle into the casts as I was fishing with my pal Graham Henson who is a few years older than me and who was consistently casting about 20% further than I could.  (I found out later that he was using a fine braided line whereas I was using mono.) 
My son Jason with the offending beach caster rod!
Anyway the reward for my effort was not a bucket full of mackerel but what I thought was a pulled shoulder muscle at the top of my left arm.  So I rested my arm, put up with the pain and waited for it to get better.  Well the pain eased a bit and months went by and I started to notice that I did not have the mobility with my arm that I had previously enjoyed.  In particular I could not reach across the car to open the glove compartment.  Also I could not reach behind me with my left arm to get anything from the back seat of the car.  My doctor gave me a course of anti-inflammatory tablets and they did nothing to help so back I went and I ended up seeing a surgeon who specialises in shoulders.  His name Mr Iossifidis I never quite managed to master, so I resorted like everyone else to calling him Mr I.  Aided by some X-rays and a brief examination Mr I announced that I had damaged my “rotator cuff”.  I didn’t know I even had one, so it came as a bit of a surprise. 
Everyone has two rotator cuffs
I went on the web and found a good video clip all about shoulders (there are hundreds of them).  See 
Anyway I agreed with Mr I that he should operate.  Then he told me that I would not feel any pain for 24 hours after the operation because I would be injected with a “pain blocker”.  So I said “And then what?” and he said “Then it will be very painful and you will not be able to drive for 12 weeks.”  Well I consider myself quite tough when it comes to pain, I even have teeth drilled without an injection, but when that pain blocker wore off Wow! it made my eyes water.  Not only that, but I could hardly move my arm for ages so I suffered the humiliation of having to have my wife help put my socks on etc.  Then for several weeks I had to do really gentle exercises just to get some mobility, and then I had to start more strenuous exercise.   I had to exercise 4 or 5 times a day and each session started the pain off again.  Then I started physio with a young lady called Amy who was tough enough to have been a “storm trooper”.  Slowly my arm got stronger and the pain faded away and I could touch the ceiling again and open the glove compartment in the car.  I knew I was well on the way to being “mended” when I got back on the river bank.  So my advice would be:-
1.       Look after your shoulders.
2.       If you do damage your rotator cuff by all means go on the web to understand what you have done.
3.       Don’t watch a video of how surgeons do key-hole surgery, as that would really put you off.  Key-hole surgeons use a lot of heavy handed tactics to put it mildly!  I watched a clip a year after I had the operation and boy did I understand why it was so painful for so long.
Fortunately when I had the operation I was still working and covered by the company’s hospital plan so I didn’t have to wait for the operation or pay for the treatment.  Just out of interest I kept track of the total cost of all the treatment and it was in the order of £6000 say $9000.
Well looking back on it, I should have left the 4 ounce weight chucking rod alone and stuck to my fly rod.  A mackerel on a fly rod can be a lot of fun.

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