Ask Beth: Torn rotator cuff—when I can I surf again?

QUESTION: When can I surf again after a torn rotator cuff?


I have a couple small tears in the rotator cuff in my left shoulder, which were diagnosed by MRI. I’m going to PT 3 times a week, is there any reason not to surf? I haven’t been since I did it 2 months ago!


Jonathan S.


Part 1:

Hey Jonathon,

Below is a response from a wonderful PT who lives and surfs here in SF. My main recommendation would be to not surf until the tears are healed as you would hate yourself if you surfed once and set yourself back another month or so. I would also recommend doing as much trunk/core fitness plus leg strengthening and cardio work to maintain a high level of fitness once you are able to surf again. Ask your PT what you can and can’t do. Check out what the pro below has to say.



Part 2:


Sometimes Beth consults me with questions from SurfPulse. I am a physical therapist who has spent a lot of time surfing. Two months out of the water can be frustrating. Don’t worry, you will get back to surfing. I am assuming that you and your medical team are trying to avoid surgery, so at some point you will need to start tailoring your rehab for returning to surfing. I would first consult your current PT and orthopedic MD for their opinion, they know a lot more about your situation.

Before returning to surfing you will want to make sure you have full range of motion and strength without symptoms. For example, when you mimic the movements for surfing, there is no pain. If you have symptoms with the movements or afterwards, the cuff is being irritated. Small tears can progress to larger tears and this is what you want to avoid. Your physical therapy program should be addressing the mechanics of your shoulder to allow you to paddle and go from prone to standing without straining the tissues of the shoulder.

Beth is a very smart Exercise Physiologist who has done a lot of work with surfers. She can help you with designing a few great return-to-surfing simulation exercises. I hope this helps! Take advantage of the down time to cross train and get in shape with exercise and nutrition. Good luck!

Lance Harriman, MSPT Potrero Physical Therapy

(Posted 1/9/05)