August 10, 2015

Shoulder surgery helps patient get back to drag racing

Patient Stories | Shoulder

Janice Swan lives for the thrill of drag racing cars. She loves everything about the experience: the adrenaline rushing through her veins, the rumble of cars racing beside her, the jolt of her car engine as she takes off and the satisfaction of crossing the finishing line.

Janice competes in the sportsman series of the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) drag racing in the SuperComp class. In other words, Janice competes in the quickest of the heads-up Super classes which is composed primarily of dragsters.

The NHRA was founded to get racing off the city streets and highways and into safer, organized venues. Now the NHRA hosts national events including the US Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park here in Indianapolis. The U.S. Nationals is an NHRA-sanctioned drag racing event, generally considered to be the most prestigious drag racing event in the world due to its history and size, held annually every Labor Day weekend.

Shoulder pain

However, at the beginning of drag racing season in 2013 Janice started to experience pain radiating down her right arm from her shoulder. The pain was so extreme that Janice was not only unable to race, but she was also unable to work.

“I was struggling with work as the pain was excruciating and working on my laptop created tingling and numbness down my arm,” said Janice. “In March 2013 I had to leave my job with disability. Not only was that devastating, but I was sidelined from my passion of drag racing and had to withdraw my entry from the NHRA GatorNationals in Gainsville, Florida. I couldn’t believe the season was starting to pass me by.”

After an MRI on her shoulder, Janice was sent to see Dr. Stephen Kollias, an OrthoIndy surgeon. Dr. Kollias recommended physical therapy for Janice. After three weeks, Janice felt better but the pain was still there. Janice didn’t have another option, if she wanted to get back to drag racing she would need to have surgery.

“I knew I didn’t want my whole season to be a bust so I asked Dr. Kollias if we could get the surgery done as soon as possible,” said Janice, “I wanted to compete in the NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis Labor Day weekend.”

Janice’s surgery was immediately scheduled for June 3rd at the OrthoIndy Hospital.

“The staff was wonderful and treated us like we were their primary job for the day,” said Janice. “It was private, cheerful and an awesome customer experience.”

Janice had her labrum repaired which included cleaning up her rotator cuff. Injuries to the shoulder can occur from acute trauma or repetitive shoulder motions.

Symptoms of a labrum tear in the shoulder include:

  • pain with overhead activities
  • occasional night pain or pain with daily activities
  • a sense of instability in the shoulder
  • decreased range of motion
  • loss of strength and catching, locking, popping or grinding

If you are experiencing shoulder pain, your orthopedic specialist will take a history of your injury. Then he or she will do several tests to check range of motion, stability and pain. An MRI may be required. Until the final diagnosis is made, your orthopedic specialist may prescribe rest and rehabilitation to strengthen the shoulder muscles. If the pain is still there surgery may be recommended.

After surgery, your shoulder will be kept in a sling for three to four weeks. Physical therapy will also be prescribed to help with range of motion. After the sling is removed more extensive exercises will be prescribed. Athletes can usually begin doing sport-specific exercises six weeks after surgery, although it will be three to four months before the shoulder is fully healed.

“Dr. Kollias knew my goal and worked hard to get me there,” said Janice. “I had researched his background and knew his sports medicine expertise would get me back on track. He was great to work with and put me in physical therapy the day after surgery.”

Dr. Kollias set August 21st as the date Janice would be cleared so she could race the following weekend.

“The week before my race I started climbing back in the race car to see if I could manage getting out. On August 21st I saw Dr. Kollias and told him I was able to climb out of the car. He gave me the green light to go racing.”

Janice was able to drive at a NHRA divisional race at Bowling Green, Kentucky two days after being cleared. The following weekend, Labor Day weekend, Janice reached her goal and competed at the NHRA US Nationals in Indianapolis.

“Janice was very motivated and ‘driven’ to get better,” said Dr. Kollias. “She was a pleasure to work with. She was determined to get back to racing and put just as much trust in me to help her get better. It’s good to see she is racing again and back where she belongs.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kollias, please call 317.802.2817. or learn more about shoulder pain at OrthoIndy. 

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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