November 29, 2019

College baseball player returns to the field after a SLAP tear

Patient Stories | Shoulder | Sports Injury

In April 2017, Cade Luker’s sophomore baseball season at Vincennes University didn’t go as planned. It ended a little short due to a right shoulder injury, leaving him frustrated that he couldn’t finish out the rest of the season.

Cade said his shoulder had been “achy” and “sore” for a while but he distinctly remembers throwing the ball and feeling the pop in his shoulder.

He knew at that moment something was seriously wrong and that he wouldn’t be holding a bat or throwing a ball anytime soon. It was devastating to Cade because he wanted to be out on the field competing alongside his teammates.

Without baseball, something just seemed to be missing from his daily lifestyle. He said he was “feeling down” knowing that he couldn’t do what he loved anymore. However, he knew he needed to see a physician and most importantly, he was ready to start his journey to recovery.

A friend of Cade’s mom recommended that he visit Dr. Michael Thieken, an OrthoIndy sports medicine physician.

Diagnosis- SLAP Tear

“Based on findings on his physical examination, X-rays and imaging studies, he was diagnosed with a superior labral tear, also known as a SLAP tear. This is a common area of the labrum for an overhead athlete to have a tear,” said Dr. Thieken.

The labrum is a piece of tissue that is attached to the rim of the shoulder socket that helps keep the ball of the joint in place. Labral tears can result from an injury or can happen over time as you age.

Learn more about shoulder injuries 

SLAP tear surgery

Cade’s labrum was repaired arthroscopically (using a camera and instruments through small skin incisions). This type of surgery typically lasts about an hour.

According to Dr. Thieken, “small incisions around the shoulder were made and the arthroscopic camera was inserted. The labrum was repaired back down to the bone where it had been torn from with suture anchors, which are anchors inserted in the bone that have sutures attached, which are used to tie down the torn labrum.”

Cade admits that he was a little bummed following surgery. “I figured my days playing baseball were over, but I was wrong,” said Cade.

Recovery after SLAP tear surgery

The recovery process after SLAP tear surgery can feel long, especially for a patient who wants to return to a sport. Cade wore a sling for six weeks after the surgery, only taking it off for short periods of time throughout the day.

According to Dr. Thieken, the most important part of recovery is physical therapy.

“Formal physical therapy and home exercises were started immediately after surgery and is an extremely important part of recovery,” said Dr. Thieken. “After approximately 12 weeks, Cade began working on more strengthening of the shoulder. At six months after surgery Cade was released to return to baseball.”

However, Cade knew that the surgery and physical therapy was worth all the time and energy he put into it. “The physical therapy is long, but don’t try and rush it,” said Cade. “You may feel like you can do more, but there is a reason the process is laid out as prescribed.”

“I had a great experience with OrthoIndy and Dr. Thieken,” said Cade. “Dr. Thieken answered every question I had pre and post-surgery, making the journey as comfortable and easy as it could have been.”

Life after surgery

“I feel great, said Cade. “My shoulder is good, and I was able to return to playing and coaching baseball. I am able to throw and perform other activities that once weren’t possible due to my injury.”

Cade has big goals in mind. “Lately, I have gotten really into Spartan races,” said Cade. “This summer my goal is to complete the tri-fecta of Spartan races which is running a sprint, super and beast all in the same calendar year.”

Cade doesn’t think his life would be the same if he hadn’t visited Dr. Thieken. “Thank you to OrthoIndy and Dr. Thieken for helping me get back to full strength,” said Cade. “You guys made a tough situation less stressful and I was comfortable with the treatment plan. I couldn’t imagine going to anyone else.”

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Michael Thieken, please call 317.802.2863 or request an appointment online at

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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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