Our story begins a long time ago on a day far, far away. I was 18 years old and at the beach with a few friends. We were body surfing and I turned to catch the next wave of the day. I started paddling furiously and before I knew it I was on top of the wave about to drop in. Unfortunately for me I ended up getting slammed into the ground by this particular wave and felt something in my shoulder I had never felt before. My shoulder slipped completely out of socket and as I swam to the surface shot right back in. Immediately I was in pain and freaking out. I got out of the water as fast as I possibly could and my arm was extremely sore and tender. After going home at the end of the day and relaxing, the pain slowly subsided and went away completely by the end of the week. Me being the stubborn person that I am, I never wanted to go get it checked out. Hey if the pain is gone that means I am alright, right? Wrong!
After the beach incident my left shoulder never had any significant pain or really any pain at all during lifting. But there was one persistent issue, it would slip out and then back in maybe once or twice per year and cause me to take a few days off before it felt normal again. Now I am not some inactive person that had dormant symptoms from being a sloth all day. I played baseball from the age of 5 until about a few years ago, when I was released from the professional independent league I was playing in at age 25. Along with all of those years of baseball I also developed a love for the weight room. It didn’t happen over night. My first lifting experience was my freshmen year of high school with 6am football style circuit training, which I absolutely hated and didn’t really receive world-class instruction in. But eventually that love for the iron bloomed and I became obsessed. When I wasn’t playing baseball I was preparing for my upcoming season lifting weights. Now this love of iron clashed quite a bit with my love of pitching, I would always say, “ Once I am finished playing baseball I am going to get absolutely jacked”. I was still chasing and had a long way to go for that goal to be fulfilled. But all in all everything was going great and I was getting stronger and feeling amazing. That was until my shoulder slipped this last time.
I was on a deload week and doing an extremely light (35lb/side) neutral grip dumbbell shoulder press. I was pressing and all of a sudden I felt it slowly start to slip, I have become accustomed to this feeling and prepared for the worst. I avoided a full slip but it still didn’t feel too great. After it partially slipped I took the normal few days off and then got back to lifting a few days later. I was incident/pain free for about 2 weeks and was feeling really great with my whole routine and then it happened, my last normal lifting day on July 25th 2016.
It was deadlift day (Aka the best day ever) and I was feeling great, the weight was coming off the floor quickly and I was in the zone. I got to my 3+ set for the day at 365lbs and hit 7 reps. The only problem though was that at the top of my final rep I felt a sharp pinch where the biceps tendon begins to enter the shoulder. I put the weight down and flexed my arm and checked if pain was still there, it wasn’t. Now do not read between the lines here and think that I am blaming deadlifts in any way. My shoulder was significantly unstable for years and years before I had ever even done 1 single rep of deadlifts. I believe my bicep tendon was just so overloaded from all the extra work it had to do in the absence of a stable labrum and the pinch I felt was a nice little warning sign to take it down a notch. I ended up finishing the rest of my lift and went home not really thinking much of it. The next morning when I woke up I had pain all the way down my biceps tendon into my wrist, I was internally freaking out at this point. “Oh my god I can’t miss my lift tonight.” I said this among many other panicky statements to my girlfriend. She told me to stop freaking out and just rest for a little bit and see how things feel. I ultimately decided to take the rest of the week off and then evaluate the situation afterwards.
Fast forward 1 week and the pain in my biceps tendon completely disappeared. But now the pain had been replaced with pain in the back and side of my shoulder with the pain most present during internal rotation of my arm. I finally decided to go get it checked out at this point. The doctor said he suspected a labral tear of some sort and scheduled me for an MRI. I have never had any significant injuries that required an MRI and I was not looking forward to getting one. After waiting for what seemed like forever I finally got the results back and the doctor said I had a possible tear in the rotator cuff and a possible labral tear with mild osteoarthritis already setting in. Now I was very angry and annoyed having it confirmed that I had an actual injury, I knew this would significantly affect my lifting schedule.
What do I do now? I wanted a second opinion at this point so I emailed Eric Cressey or as I refer to him “The God of Strength Training and Injury Prevention”. We went back and forth and I sent him my radiology report and he told me he didn’t think my situation sounded like it required surgery. I was happy to hear this and was ready to not have surgery and then I had my follow up visit with my orthopedic surgeon. My surgeon said that in most cases they want to avoid surgery and exhaust all other options first, but since I had been having issues for so long surgery would be a better option at this point. I thought it over and talked with my parents and my girlfriend and ultimately decided to go with the surgery. Surgery was then scheduled for 3-4 weeks later. Being the stubborn person I am, I decided I was going to absolutely hammer my legs for the next month and try and keep as much strength and size in my lower body as possible with a modified routine.
In Part 2 of my blog I will go over what I did for the next month to keep myself from going insane and how I mentally and physically prepared for my surgery.