Does that Shoulder Even Work?

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That isn’t a question that you want someone to ask you.  And that is a question some PT/massage therapist asked me out of blue yesterday when I was skiing from the North End to Hayward.

It all started great.  We had a plan to meet up with Stacie and Karl, then head south to Hayward.  Trudi was going to drive the van down there and ski North.  The snow was pretty great, which means stable for me, and the k’s were going by pretty quickly.

When I got to OO, I was a few minutes ahead of Bill and Karl, so I went into the warming hut to try to stay warm.  I was sitting there, just for a couple minutes, when they showed up.  A guy in the warming hut knew Karl and started talking.  Then his buddy started talking to us.  He was saying that there was a fatbike race going on and that it was 100 miles long or something.

Next thing I know, his eyes get a little big and he just reaches over and grabs my shoulder.  He says that it’s the worst shoulder he’s ever seen and wanted to know if it “even worked”.  He asks me if I could ski.  I say to him that it’s been doing pretty good here and ask him what he sees that makes him concerned.  He said it was pivoted wrong and folded in.

Anyway, he pushed around on my back alittle and once again said he was amazed the shoulder even worked somewhat.  That was kind of depressing.

He sent me a text with a phone number of some guy in Texas that is supposed to be a shoulder God physical therapist.   I thought I was past that point.  And in reality, I thought my shoulder was working pretty great, considering.

The IPC Nordic World Ski Championships (Para Skiers) is in 3 weeks here in Cable.  Skiers from 18 countries are going competing.  I’m wondering if I’m crippled enough to compete?  Probably not I guess.

Anyway, it gives me something to think about.  I have to say that the skiing the last week has been exactly the right thing I needed to be doing for both my shoulders and hip.  Everything has held up pretty great and nothing was aching much.  We skied over 40 km yesterday and it felt pretty easy.  I wasn’t really tired and felt pretty good.  It is amazing what a little grooming will do to make the conditions a lot easier.

We’re packing up and heading south today.  It is supposed to be cold everywhere, but really cold here on Sunday.  Like a high of -8 and a low of in the -20’s.  Plus, we need to start making our way down to Austin for cyclocross Nationals next weekend.

Karl and BIll skiing up to the high point on the Birkie trail yesterday.

Karl and BIll skiing up to the high point on the Birkie trail yesterday.


And hanging at OO 1/2 way through.

And hanging at OO 1/2 way through.

At the North End warming hut before we left.

At the North End warming hut before we left.


9 thoughts on “Does that Shoulder Even Work?

  1. Ken


    I’m always skeptical when I hear such easy diagnoses from people who didn’t go to med school. When I had PT for an injury a few years ago, the therapist seemed to get great joy out of explaining to me why the doctor who took care of it didn’t know what he was doing. PTs and chiropractors often overstep in trying to assert their expertise. I seem to recall various good doctors giving you sound advice.

    My 2 cents.

  2. Dave Eckstrom

    I’m not an MD, PT or chiropractor, but I don’t think the advice of the latter two should be dismissed too lightly, when talking about an issue like Steve described here.

    If lack of education is your concern, as it seems to be, rest assured that chiropractors have typically taken more anatomy classes than MDs and are specifically trained in non-visceral ailments, and PTs nowdays have to earn a DPT, which is the essentially a doctorate, specifically in the kind of stuff like shoulders that aren’t pointing in the right direction.

    I know they don’t take that God-101 class that makes some MDs think they know everything, but still.

  3. El Jabón

    Thanks Steve!
    You reminded me of my goal of eventually going XC skiing. I still have to try my hand at it sometime.
    In my case, the static nature of cycling has made one arm and shoulder bigger/stronger than the other which has been a bit hard to correct for purely cosmetic reasons.
    Perhaps your “bad” shoulder is just a muscle imbalance?

  4. Stacie

    Steve has had fairly significant atrophy involving his infraspinatus and supraspinatus fossa which has been there for years. His retracted and massively torn rotator cuff matched his external visual exam . Once you tear your rotator cuff the muscles attached to the tendon atrophy and convert into fatty tissue. This was present on his pre op MRI and matched his intraoperative findings. The most recent shoulder literature reports that even if the torn rotator cuff is reattached and heals the muscle atrophy never completely reverses and may not reverse at all.
    The role of the rotator cuff is to help stabilize the humerus in the glenoid. The secondary muscles such as your deltoid, latissimus dorsi, trapezius, and rhomboids all play a role in shoulder function much more than your rotator cuff does.
    It’s also been established through the shoulder literature that over 50% of people greater than 70 plus years old have full thickness rotator cuff tear that are completely asymptomatic.
    Yes , I was aware of the atrophy and because of Steve’s secondary muscular strength he is doing well. After all he did “win ” the double Birkie …

  5. Jim

    In my experience, the surgeon and the PT worked very closely both pre-op and post op. My surgeon was very interested in my PT evaluation of my shoulder injury prior to surgery.

  6. Matt

    Why would anyone click the thumb down on that comment? I think that whole experience highlights what a peak physical machine/anomaly/specimen Steve is. That someone would make a comment like that to someone who obviously has a working shoulder kind of reminds me of the people who would walk up to my wife when she was pregnant and ask “are you having twins” when she’d reply “no just one” they’d continue “are you sure?”.


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