Back in the Game

Physical therapy returns senior to softball field.

For 18 years, Dean Palamara has played softball in various leagues in Florida. At 68, he now plays in the 65-and-older senior league, but it wasn’t his age that got the New Jersey native injured two years ago.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Rehabilitation got Dean back in the game.

“Somebody slid into me, and I landed on my shoulder awkwardly,” describes Dean. “That tore my rotator cuff a little. But my team was doing really well, so I kept playing for another year and a half, which injured my shoulder further.
“I ended up with significantly more damage than the doctor saw on the MRI that was taken right after the injury. There was damage to my rotator cuff, the attached biceps tendon and the surrounding muscles. I eventually succumbed to surgery.”
Years before, Dean had replacement surgery on his right hip. He chose to do the rehabilitation at home, and had a rough recovery. Five years later, he had his left hip replaced, but this time he went to Barr & Associates Physical Therapy for rehabilitation following surgery.
“The second hip replacement was noticeably better, partly because the implant had some plastic parts,” reports Dean. “But for the most part, it was better because the team at Barr and Associates Physical Therapy did such an excellent job of rehabbing my left hip.”
When the time came to rehabilitate his shoulder, Dean remembered his previous experience at Barr & Associates Physical Therapy. He knew the staff was knowledgeable, and he trusted them. He chose to make Barr & Associates his primary physical therapy provider. When he arrived, Dean initially met with Jacob Barr, DPT.
“The first thing Dr. Barr did was perform an exam to test my range of motion and to get a baseline as to what my limitations were,” relates Dean. “He then worked with my surgeon to put together a therapy regimen to get me back in shape.
“I was able to be very aggressive in my rehab, but I adhered to exactly what Dr. Barr and his staff told me to do. I didn’t overstep their routine because I didn’t want to injure my shoulder again.”

Progressive Process

During their initial evaluations, the Barr & Associates physical therapists determine each patient’s goals. For some who are retired and inactive, the goal may be as simple as reaching into the closet to get a shirt. Those who are more active often have higher goals, so the staff may take a slightly different approach to therapy with them.
“Dean came back to us on September first of last year after having rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder in July,” reports Dr. Barr. “Other than getting back to his regular daily activities, his primary goal was to return to senior-league softball as quickly as possible.”
When a person has an injury such as the one Dean had suffered, physical therapists are limited in their approach during the first four weeks of treatment. Primarily, they perform hands-on therapies such as massage and manual stretching.
“After four weeks, Dean was able to do some range of motion exercises,” notes Dr. Barr. “After another month, we started him on strength-training exercises. Because he wanted to return to a high level of sporting activity, we carried him out a little longer and focused even more on strength training.”
Dean took advantage of all the resources at Barr & Associates Physical Therapy to enhance the rehabilitation of his shoulder and get back in the game.
“Dr. Barr had a bicycle routine for the arms and shoulders where you use your arms to pedal,” he states. “We did stretching exercises, and he had all sorts of equipment that I used there. Some of the equipment I also bought and used at home.
“I worked with an excellent physical therapist who plays baseball and softball. Dr. Barr plays softball as well, so they understood me. They not only got me ready for activities of daily living, they also built me up for my return to the game.”

Back on the Field

Dean started playing softball again four months after surgery and was playing competitively again six months after the operation. He credits Dr. Barr and his staff with getting him back on the ballfield so quickly.
“That I’m young enough to continue playing is a blessing,” he enthuses. “But without the guidance of Dr. Barr and everyone at Barr and Associates Physical Therapy, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
“There’s a bumper sticker that reads, You don’t stop playing softball because you get old. You get old because you stopped playing softball. I think there’s some truth to that, and I’ll play as long as God and the doctor allow me.”
Dean is thankful his shoulder is healed so he can play softball again. However, he’s still working to make it even stronger.

“They not only got me ready for activities of daily living, they also built me up for my return to the game.” -Dean

“I’m still building strength in my shoulder,” he confirms, “and there are certain things I don’t feel comfortable doing yet, but I’m getting there. I’m probably at ninety percent right now. I’m optimistic that I’ll get the rest of the way there soon.
“I don’t have any pain anymore, but I have some discomfort periodically. It’s not really pain. On a scale of one to ten, it’s only a one. My pain was an eight after the surgery.”
Dr. Barr is pleased with Dean’s progress and happy he’s already back to his sport.
“We’re glad that Dean was able to reach his goal and return to playing senior softball by the end of the year,” he reports. “Like many of our patients, Dean chose us as his primary physical therapy provider, so when he needed therapy after shoulder surgery, he knew exactly where to go.”
“Most of the people who go to rehab facilities are older and just want to walk normally,” says Dean. “The fact that I was able to recuperate and do more than that is a testament to Barr and Associates Physical Therapy. You can’t ask for more than that.”

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