On Wednesday, February 22nd it was announced that Indians’ second baseman Jason Kipnis had initiated a right shoulder strengthening program as a part of his spring training routine. The team’s medical staff also indicated the 29-year-old would begin Cactus League play in the designated hitter role and not at second base.
However, fast forward to Sunday afternoon and new details of Kipnis’ right shoulder emerged. A strained right rotator cuff and cortisone injection will have Kipnis on the shelf for four to five days per a report for the Indians. Also worth noting, Tribe skipper, Terry Francona did not seem concerned with the recent news of Kipnis' injury.
What is it? The rotator cuff (RTC) is a group of four muscles in the shoulder that allow the shoulder to function properly during every day life, playing baseball etc. The four muscles that make up the RTC are the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. Collectively the muscles work together to allow the shoulder to move, which in turn allows a baseball player to throw and hit. The term strain refers to over stretching of a muscle, which in this case is the rotator cuff, and is typically used interchangeably with the phrase “a pulled muscle”. Strains are typically graded on a scale from one to three, with one being the least severe and three being the most severe. The strain of Kipnis’ right rotator cuff could have been to any one of the four previously mentioned muscles, however the Indians did not discern to which muscle the injury occurred or the grade of the strain.
How is it fixed? Rotator cuff strains are typically managed on a conservative basis initially by the way of rest, rehabilitation and activity modification. It is important to get a good handle on this process soon after the injury occurs in order to reduce the risk of further injury in the future. Rest allows the muscle tissue time to recover and not be exposed to the stresses of throwing/hitting that may continue to overstretch the injured muscle. The rehabilitation component of addressing a rotator cuff strain entails maintaining adequate strength and range of motion of the shoulder and also ensuring proper swing and throwing mechanics are used by the player. Cortisone injections may also be used in order to help reduce pain and inflammation in the affected tissue. Once the player is able to perform all baseball activities without an exacerbation of symptoms/pain he will be allowed to return to unrestricted baseball activities by the medical team.
My take. I am not worried about the status of Jason Kipnis at this juncture. The Indians have not released any information that indicated structural compromise in Kipnis’ shoulder so no need to be concerned about surgery at this time. The team initiated a shoulder strengthening program a few days ago, for the Chicago native, which is right in line with typical treatment for this type of injury. The cortisone injection should also help to speed up the rehab process, however, there is no need to rush any player back from injury this early in the year. I expect the Tribe to be patient with Kipnis’ return and avoid rushing him back if he were to encounter any setbacks. Going forward, I anticipate Kipnis to be able to contribute as we are used to seeing him contribute and to build upon his stellar 2016 campaign.
Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT, is a graduate of the University of Toledo, Doctor of Physical Therapy Program and currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. He is an avid Cleveland sports fan and has experience rehabbing athletes of all levels and from a variety of sports. Follow Brandon on Twitter for more Cleveland Indians injury insight and analysis: @blbowers12
The information provided is the professional opinion of Brandon Bowers, PT, DPT and is based on his clinical experience and the most current clinical evidence available. This information should not be interpreted as or substituted for medical advice for a specific condition or diagnosis.