After Severe Rotator Cuff Injuries, Stuart Baker Found Relief at Mayo Clinic

Suffering from a major injury is no easy feat, but when it happens twice – ouch! That was reality for Stuart Baker. Stuart began his career as a flight attendant and eventually became a pilot for a major airline. But at age 40, Stuart had torn his rotator cuff twice, grounding his ability to fly. His first injury came in the early 1990s and required immediate surgery. Two years later, he suffered the second rotator cuff tear after dealing with an unruly passenger on his flight. Given the extent of his injuries, Stuart needed to see a doctor and consulted Mayo Clinic. He needed another surgery, but thanks to the team at Mayo, as well as Stuart’s persistence, determination and physical therapy, he was able to regain 100% mobility and function in his left arm. Read more about Stuart and his life now from Sharing Mayo Clinic.

Choose a message to share 
After Severe Rotator Cuff Injuries, Stuart Baker Found Relief at Mayo Clinic
Suffering from a major injury is no easy feat, but when it happens twice – ouch.
After Severe Rotator Cuff Injuries, Stuart Baker Found Relief at Mayo Clinic | Mayo Clinic Connect

I am very interested know how you cured the second rotator cuff tear. Did you have surgery for it?


The next time I tear the muscles in my arm, or anywhere, I will ask for an MRI right away — when I injured my upper arm weightlifting (8 lbs. — not a lot, but it was a lateral move, and I was increasing from 5 to 8 — too much too soon for a lateral lift) I made the injury worse by continuing to work out, including a reverse pull up on a bar. After three weeks of reduced activity, and no improvement, I made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon. I thought that I should put my arm in a sling, but he evaluated my strength and flexibility (above average for my age) and recommended exercises that I could not do, and have been assigned, only recently, TEN WEEKS after surgery. Although pre-op, I could not do the exercises prescribed by the surgeon, I could do the exercises prescribed by my PT..

Regretfully, my initial appointments with my DPT were delayed by a backlog until five weeks after the initial visit with the doctor and 8 weeks after the injury. I still believe that the pre-op exercises prescribed for me by the surgeon, and to a lesser extent prescribed by the DPT, made my tear worse. After 8 weeks of PT (now 3 months after first injury) there was no improvement. An MRI was prescribed, showing a tear that needed surgery, but, thankfully, no tendons that required screws.

When I expressed concern about the delay between the injury and the surgery and whether the tear had become worse during that time period, my doctor and my DPT said that my insurance company would only pay for the MRI after I tried PT. I have Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Federal Employee Plan – it’s harder to find a better plan for the price, and there are few better plans at any price. However, when I saw the MRI, it was clear to me that a 68 year old active female with above average flexibility (at any age) has tendons that are coming to the end of their useful life, and when stressed, pushed back against the muscles first, rather than lose their own integrity. Tendons are better bullies than triceps and biceps; they ripped last .

Other issues that have arisen in the three months post-op

DPTs have the authority to prescribe — DPTs complete a three year program post-baccalaureate and pass a state licensed exam, and meet other requirements, but in certain states, and perhaps, nationally, the DPT cannot prescribe — why? because of inadequate advocacy by their professional organization? A DPT is equivalent to a nurse practitioner — and should be provided limited ability to prescribe medications for muscles and joints.

Walk-in clinics for orthopedics are available, but not all orthopedic medical providers wish to be available nights and weekends, when injuries occur, forcing patients and their insurers to pay for more expensive or duplicate services in hospital emergency rooms after consulting an “urgent care” door front access to a hospital.

Wellness checks should be a part of a PT referral – not just for the injured part, but for the mobility and flexibility of the entire body — exercises that are helpful in repairing an area that is specific to the injury, are never enough to prevent injuries to a related part of the body. For example, injury to any limb should be followed by PT for that body part and also for balance, as well as overall strength exercises in parts of the body that support the injured part. Strength and flexibility should be measured before and after PT, for all parts of the body, not just the injured part, because injury results in periods of inactivity, leading to loss of strength overall, loss of flexibility overall, and even weight gain. DPTs believe that more comprehensive evaluations of the entire body during (or in advance of injury, as part of an annual physical) would not just prevent injury, but also increase income for the physical therapy profession.

Please respond with your thoughts — I am an active retiree but the fact of the matter is that I am only active enough when I am injury free and that is about half the time.


I may have miscommunicated here — there was only one tear to my left arm, for which I had surgery. I m trying to avoid damage to my right shoulder, the shoulder for which I had more concern before the rip on my left side. The injuries to my right shoulder were related to supporting my weight in two falls, about 20 and 40 years ago. A similar round of PT, with the same DPT, restored mobility and strength, and as I regained strength and flexibility post-op, I took care to exercise both my left and my right sides. I hope this helps — just trying to avoid damage to the right side, where I avoided surgery with PT.

Please sign in or register to post a reply.