Busy Executive and Racquetball Player Works with Physical Therapist to Overcome Arm Injury
Late in 2014, competitive racquetball player Jerry Stoffl, 53, began to experience pain in his right shoulder. He had been playing his favorite sport more often – at least five times per week – in preparation for the tournament season, and it was taking a toll on his body.
Not one to be easily distracted by pain, Jerry continued playing racquetball until the beginning of February, when he decided that he needed to seek help. He had Googled his symptoms and thought he had injured his rotator cuff, but wanted an expert’s opinion. That is when he thought of physical therapist Deborah Pryor. She had helped Jerry 10 years earlier with a back injury, and he trusted her to help him again.
It took a little work to find Deborah, who is now a supervisor at University Hospitals Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine office in Hudson, but when he located her, it was worth the effort. He stated, “I wanted to go to Deborah because I knew that she would give me a fair and honest assessment of my injury, and then provide me with the tools I needed to help me rehabilitate on my own.” Jerry, who is Chief Financial Officer/Chief Administrative Officer for Strang Corporation (owners of local restaurants Don’s Lighthouse and Don’s Pomeroy House, as well as 40 Philadelphia-area Panera Bread locations), is a busy executive who had limited time for physical therapy appointments.
Therapist Gives Patient the Tools to Guide His Own Recovery
Deborah respected Jerry’s limited availability, and used their four weekly sessions to their best advantage. “On Jerry’s first visit, I took a complete history, discussed his symptoms and what functional limitations he had with use of his affected arm. I assessed his range of motion, strength, posture and performed a series of special tests to identify the source of his symptoms,” said Deborah. “I diagnosed his injury as bicipital tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendon (where muscle attaches to the bone) caused in Jerry’s case by over use from playing racquetball.”
Every Friday morning for the next three weeks in her clinic, Deborah showed Jerry various exercises that he could do on his own, and provided education about how to prevent further injury in the future. She applied manual therapy, heat and ice to the affected muscles and set him up on an independent gym program, including free weights, cable rows and stretching. “I’ll be honest – initially, I didn’t want to do the exercises as often as she suggested,” said Jerry. “But, she stood firm; and you know what? I started to see improvement.”
“Pain is not to be accepted as a normal response to activity,” said Deborah. “It’s your body’s way of telling you that something is not working properly.” She continued, “If pain lasts more than a couple of days, seek medical attention. Early intervention can prevent your symptoms from worsening or resulting in less conservative treatments – even surgical intervention.”
A Return to Pain-Free Play
After his third physical therapy appointment, Jerry started to feel remarkably better, but continued exercising on his own. After his fourth appointment with Deborah, he had improved so much that she suggested that he try to play racquetball, just to see how he felt. “At that point, I still had some pain, but it felt really good to play again.”Today, Jerry is back playing racquetball regularly. “I’m about 99 percent pain-free now,” he said. “Compared to before I started working with Deborah, it’s like the difference between night and day. She got me exactly where I wanted to be.” He continues to do the exercises that Deborah provided and recommends her to his friends. “She is so patient; and I love her demeanor,” said Jerry. “I’m not the kind of person who needs someone with good bedside manner – I need results, and she provided them. But, she truly is a joy to be around.”
To learn more about UH Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, log on to UHhospitals.org/OPRehab or call the UH Outpatient Rehabilitation Hotline at 216-286-REHAB (216-286-7342). For an appointment with Deborah Pryor, PT, Certified MDT, please call 330-655-5026.