Does slower rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair lead to long-term stiffness?

Bradford O. Parsons, Konrad I. Gruson, Darwin D. Chen, Alicia K. Harrison, James Gladstone, Evan L. Flatow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

151 Scopus citations


Hypothesis: Conservative rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair does not result in long-term stiffness and improves rates of tendon healing. Materials and methods: We retrospectively evaluated 43 patients with full-thickness rotator cuff tears who underwent a standardized, conservative protocol of full-time sling immobilization without formal therapy for 6 weeks after arthroscopic repair. At 6 to 8 weeks of follow-up, we categorized patients as " stiff" if they demonstrated forward elevation of less than 100° and external rotation of less than 30° passively; all others were designated " nonstiff." Active range of motion in forward elevation, external rotation, and internal rotation was assessed at 3 months, 6 months, and 1 year. American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) and Constant-Murley scores were assessed at 1 year. Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was obtained in all patients to assess tendon healing. Results: Ten patients (23%) were considered stiff after rotator cuff surgery. At 1 year, there was no difference in mean forward elevation (166° vs 161°, P = .2), external rotation (62° vs. 58.4°, P = .5), or internal rotation (T7.4 vs T8.2, P = .07) between the stiff and nonstiff groups, respectively. There were no differences in final ASES (83 vs 79, P = .57) and Constant-Murley scores (77 vs. 74, P = .5). Repeat MRI suggested a trend toward a lower retear rate among the stiff patients (70% intact in stiff group vs 36% in nonstiff group, P = .079). Two clinically significant cuff retears occurred in the nonstiff cohort. Discussion: Concerns for recalcitrant stiffness have led some to favor early postoperative therapy. We found that early restriction of motion did not lead to long-term stiffness after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair, even in patients who were clinically stiff in the early postoperative period. Conclusions: Sling immobilization for 6 weeks after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair does not result in increased long-term stiffness and may improve the rate of tendon healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1034-1039
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2010


  • Case Series
  • Healing
  • Immobilization
  • Level IV
  • Rehabilitation
  • Rotator cuff repair
  • Shoulder
  • Stiffness
  • Treatment Study


Dive into the research topics of 'Does slower rehabilitation after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair lead to long-term stiffness?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this