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April 20, 2021  
SHOULDER NEWS: Feature Story

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  • Sheffield Undergoes Shoulder Surgery

    Yankee Outfielder Gary Sheffield Undergoes Shoulder Surgery

    December 13, 2004

    By: Sydonya Barker for Shoulder1

    New York Yankees right-fielder Gary Sheffield had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in Alabama November 30th, the outcome of which has been described as successful. Sheffield, a veteran of 17 major-league seasons, has been playing most of this season with a shoulder injury that sometimes caused him to be unable to lift his glove above his waist.

    Arthroscopic shoulder surgery is performed using only a few (usually 2 to 4) small incisions less than an inch long. The doctor inserts minuscule instruments, along with a tiny camera, through the incisions to get access to the surgery site. Dr. James Andrews, an arthroscopy pioneer, performed the surgery, which had been postponed from last week after Sheffield was unable to travel to Alabama because of the weather.

    Body1 interviewed Dr. Andrews in February, and on the subject of arthroscopic surgery, he said, “It’s been extremely important, particularly for the athletes, to get well more quickly. Along with it has come rapid rehabilitation. That’s the real major breakthrough in sports medicine in the last thirty years.”

    Sheffield had received cortisone shots, in June and September, but was still limited by his injury throughout the season. According to the Canadian Broadcasting company, Sheffield had been diagnosed with bursitis in June, and in fact spent the last four months of the baseball season playing with a torn trapezius muscle. The most worrying possibility, however, was that Sheffield’s labrum might be torn, as well.

    The labrum is a rim of tissue surrounding the head of the humerus (upper armbone) where it meets the socket of the shoulder blade. It stabilizes and cushions the joint, as well as being the site where several ligaments attach.

    Because the labrum is situated between two bones, it’s difficult for doctors to detect a labrum tear without actual exploratory surgery. And even after the pitcher’s labrum is diagnosed and repaired, chances are he won’t return to his former level of play, or anything even resembling it. Will Carroll, in a article published this May, noted that of 36 pitchers diagnosed with labrum tears over the last five years, only one, a mid-level relief pitcher, was able to return to previous form.

    The news for Sheffield, however, was good. His agent, Rufus Williams, told the New York Times, “They removed some scar tissue, but there wasn’t a labrum tear…There may have been some minor damage, but there was nothing that wasn’t expected when they went in and cleaned it up.”

    Even with all his shoulder trouble this season, Sheffield was runner-up, behind Vladimir Guerrero of the Anaheim Angels, for Most Valuable Player in the American League. As for next season, “The initial recovery time I heard was four to five weeks,” Williams told the Times. “My guess would be more conservative that that, but given the amount of time between now and spring training, he expects to be ready by then.”

    Last updated: 13-Dec-04


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