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Maritime Injury Law: A Seaman’s Guide To Rotator Cuff Injuries.

Diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff?  Torn rotator cuffs are painful and frustrating injuries.  While they are healing, you may unable to work or even go about your daily activities.  Do you have questions?  The maritime law attorneys at The Young Firm have compiled this list of questions and answers about torn rotator cuffs.

What is the rotator cuff?

The term rotator cuff refers to the tendons and muscles that surround the bones of the shoulder joint. A rotator cuff injury includes any injury to the tendons or muscles of the shoulder.

What is a torn rotator cuff?

A torn rotator cuff is the medical term for damage to the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff.  The injury may be very painful. The injured seaman may experience pain that goes over the top of the shoulder and the arm.  At first, the pain may be intermittent, but over time it worsens and becomes a constant ache.  The pain may eventually reach down to the elbow.
Another symptom of a torn rotator cuff is weakness in the shoulder.  As symptoms progress, the injured seaman may have difficulty lifting his arm overhead and may find everyday activities challenging.

What causes a torn rotator cuff?

There are several ways that rotator cuffs can be injured:

Reaching overhead – Repetitive overhead movement can stress the muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff and cause inflammation and tearing.   Working while tired, may also cause injury. As the body tires, the neck and shoulders slouch forward.  When this happens, the space between the shoulder bones becomes smaller and a muscle or tendon may become pinched under the shoulder bones.

Slip and falls – When a person trips, the natural reaction is to use the arms to break the fall.  This can bruise or tear a rotator cuff tendon or muscle. Falling on the arm can also injure the rotator cuff.

Lifting or pulling – Lifting or pulling a heavy object may strain or tear the tendons or muscles in the shoulder.

How are rotator cuff injuries treated?

Most rotator cuff tears can be treated non-surgically.  Common treatment options include a combination of rest, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory pain medications, and cortisone injections.  This treatment aims to reduce the painful inflammation and strengthen the uninjured muscles around the shoulder to compensate for the torn muscles while the injury heals.  However, severe injuries do require surgery to repair the torn tendons.

After surgery, the patient will need to avoid any activities that may injure the healing tendons.  He will require physical therapy and rehabilitation to strengthen the injured tendons and muscles before returning to work.

Understand your rights.

A torn rotator cuff injury is a common maritime injury that takes time to heal. If you are a maritime worker who is suffering from a torn rotator cuff, it is important that you be informed about your rights. While you are recovering from your injury, you are entitled to receive maintenance and cure payments from your employer.  You can learn more in our article: “What is Maintenance and Cure?”

You may also be able to file a Jones Act claim for your injury.  Jones Act damages include: pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of wages and fringe benefits. To determine if you have a Jones act case, contact a maritime law attorney.   The Young Firm offers free case evaluations.  Contact the Young Firm at 866-715-3664.

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