Manny Pacquiao faced two opponents last weekend: an undefeated “Fun Run Champion” and an injury called the “Rotator Cuff Tear.”
Of the latter, I speak from experience. I, too, had an almost-similar injury. And like what Manny is about to undergo later this week, I went “under the knife.” I had surgery.
Mine happened five years ago. No, I’m no boxer. My sport is tennis and several years back, after shifting to marathon-running, I stopped tennis. But then I wanted to return to playing the sport of Roger Federer and, without much warm-up and take-it-easy preparation, I started to hit my serves as hard as I could.
That pronation and shoulder-twisting action from the tennis serve injured my shoulder. Hard-headed and thinking that it was temporary, I continued. The shoulder pain turned unbearable. I slept in agony; when I turned to my right, the discomfort was excruciating. I couldn’t twist my right arm counter-clockwise. I rested. Iced the shoulder. Underwent therapy. But then months ensued and, after all options were exhausted, I opted for surgery.
Jose Antonio “Tony” San Juan, the foremost sports medicine surgeon in the Visayas and Mindanao, was my doctor.
“Your condition was a rotator cuff impingement/subacromial impingement,” said Tony, who will be flying to Vietnam tomorrow with Jonel Borromeo to join Steve and Maricel Maniquis in the first-ever Ironman 70.3 Vietnam triathlon race this Sunday. “You didn’t have a tear yet at the time of surgery but if left alone you would have suffered a tear.”
Common to sports involving overhead and shoulder movements (like tennis, badminton, volleyball, boxing, baseball and swimming), my injury was due, said Tony, “to your rotator cuff getting impinged/compressed by bony overgrowth in your acromioclavicular joint (joint formed by your collarbone and extension of your shoulder blade).”
Too technical? He explains: “When we did your surgery (Subacromial Decompression), it was aimed at relieving you of the pain caused by the impingement.”
That’s the rotary cuff injury for sports involving overheard movements. Boxing? This is an entirely different animal of a game. Dr. San Juan explains the possible causes of the injury. “Untreated or undertreated impingement (like mine) may eventually lead to a tear. Another cause of a rotator cuff tear is trauma: the sudden contraction of the rotator cuff muscle that could cause it to detach from its bony attachment.”
Manny Pacquiao’’s injury, he says, involves both. “Pain and limitation of movement and function because of the pain are what needs to be addressed with the treatment,” he said.
Is there a chance that Manny’s injury will be career-ending? I’d like to answer that: Any procedure that involves surgery — especially for a fighter who’s boxed hundreds and hundreds of rounds — can be career-ending. It is possible that last Sunday was the last that we saw of Pacman on the ring.
But Tony is confident. “Present techniques for surgical treatment (Subacromial Decompression, Rotator Cuff Repair) have high rates of success,” he said, “and most are able to return to a high level of physical activity with proper care and rehabilitation.”
This is good news. The bad news? A long, long recovery process, taking as long as 9 to 12 months. “This could test the patience of an elite athlete like MP,” said Tony. Let’s remember: By then, Pacquiao will be 37.
“MP couldn’t be in better hands, though, under the care of Dr. Neal ElAttrache,” said Tony. “He is a well recognized global authority in this field who has treated the likes of Kobe Bryant, Tom Brady and Vitali Klitschko.”
Our doctor-triathlete’s suggestion for Manny? To touch base with Kobe, Brady and Kiltschko, the former heavyweight champ. I’m sure these celebrities will answer the call of Manny (especially Kobe who, like Manny, is a Nike endorser and who’s the same age).
“They’’re the best source of information and confidence heading into surgery as they have had first-hand experience,” said Tony.