Rotator cuff tears are a common injury in middle to older aged adults seen in our Boulder Physical Therapy and Lafayette Physical Therapy clinics and can be atraumatic or traumatic in nature. Traumatic rotator cuff tears often occur following a fall, acute sports injury, or can be an acute on chronic tear in nature. This latter category involves patients with prior rotator cuff symptoms who sustain a traumatic injury. Research has shown no difference between Physical Therapy or surgery for atraumatic rotator cuff tears, but emerging evidence is supporting the use of Physical Therapy for traumatic tears.
One of the common arguments made against conservative treatment, including Physical Therapy, of rotator cuff tears is time and a potential worsening of symptoms if surgery is delayed. Previous research has not shown a significant change in tear size or tear regression in a majority of patients. A new research study compared early to late surgical interventions for patients with traumatic rotator cuff tears.
Patel and colleagues conducted a case matched trial on early vs. delayed surgical interventions for traumatic rotator cuff tears (Eur J Orthop Surg Traumatol. 2022). Authors compared the post surgical results of 20 patients who underwent repair within 4 months of injury vs. 20 patients who waited between 4 and 24 months after injury. They reported early repair of rotator cuff tears had a shorter time of recovery, but they found no significant difference between early vs. delayed repair at long term follow up.