Shoulder pain. It can plague us all, even the great ones! There is very little debate over who the NFL’s greatest wide receiver of all time is. Jerry Rice is the best there ever was. But did you know that Jerry’s football DNA has been passed on to a son, Jerry Rice Jr.? That is correct. He is an incoming rookie wide receiver. With some experience at my old alma mater, UCLA. He was set to potentially follow in his father’s footsteps until an unfortunate injury. Jerry Rice Jr. suffered a significant shoulder injury when he landed awkwardly on it during practice. The diagnosis: a labrum tear.
The labrum is a fibrous cartilage that is located in the shoulder joint. The shoulder joint is one of the most common examples of a ball and socket joint. This joint is where the shoulder blade cavity (glenoid cavity) and upper arm bone (humerus) meet and form the respective ball and socket. The labrum acts as a joint stabilizer that both deepens the socket and sucks the humerus into the socket.
If the labrum tears, the shoulder can become unstable. Labrum tear causes decreased range of motion, decreased strength, and pain. In addition, severe labrum tears tend to cause abnormal shoulder joint interactions such as grinding, locking, popping, and catching. While these interactions sound like a set of trendy new dance moves, they can be painful and quite discomforting.
There are a number of different types of labrum tear; the main types are SLAP tears and bankart tears, but these also has a set of sub-categorizations based on the severity of the tear. A SLAP (Superior Labrum Anterior and Posterior) tear involves the top of the shoulder and essentially involves the disconnection of the labrum from its ball and socket attachment points. A SLAP tear is usually diagnosed in terms of severities from type 1 to type 4. Type 1 is a partial tear where the edges of the labrum fray but do not become completely detached. Type 2 is the most common and does involve a complete detachment of the upper labrum from the socket. Type 3 is where the tear from the socket causes the labrum to actually folds over itself between the ball and socket. Type 4 is where the tear actually extends to the bicep tendon. The bankart tear involves the front of the shoulder. The reverse bankart tear involves the back of the shoulder.
Treatment can involve anything from rest followed by rehabilitation to arthroscopic surgery. In the case of type 1 SLAP labrum tears the typical treatment would just be rest, anti-inflammatory medications, and rehabilitation if needed. Most large tears will require surgery, which will involves trimming, repair or reattachment. After successful surgery, recovery time involves using a sling for approximately a month followed by anywhere from a month to three months of rehabilitation to regain complete strength and range of motion.
In the case of Jerry Rice Jr., his torn labrum did require surgery and it is considered season ending. But if he has half of the heart that his father had, you can bet that Jerry Rice Jr. will have a bright future in the NFL.