Bone on bone but still rocking

A lot of you have heard me whine about my shoulders. Yesterday we got more bad news, and some good news, and we’re trying something new.

Where we are

Right shoulder still has a broken clavicle, and probably a torn labrum, but this is the “good” side so we’re ignoring it for now.

Left shoulder now officially has zero cartilage. It’s bone on bone madness, with some dramatic spurs and massive inflammation. It hurts 5 out of 10 almost all the time (unless I’m warm and moving well), overuse is an 8, and certain movements are 9s and 10s.

Work can be excruciating. The biggest bummer: I can’t throw my girls overhead in the pool. When you have to say no to that request, that’s sad.

Lee Likes Infographics. Email me if you need some cleanness and clarity.

Good news: The left rotator cuff looks pretty good. Super stoked on that.


Being an idiot. Lifting heavy in high school then riding with poor technique. This is one reason I feel so strongly about the LLB mission: We’re saving lives! And shoulders.

Surgeries. The labrum repair back in 2002 left anchors, scars and contact points for long term damage. The arthroscopy in 2008 helped for a short while, but parts are wearing out, breaking off and floating around.

Parents. When yesterday’s docs looked at the MRI they mentioned there might be a congenital issue with the shape of the wear surfaces. I’ve never heard this from a shoulder doc, but it makes sense. My kneecaps have fissures where the growth zones didn’t properly fuse. When I was a roadie and triathlete this became super painful. These days I pedal differently (and less).

What can be done?

Every expert says a shoulder replacement is inevitable. Why not now?

I’m too young and active. Those parts wear out too, and I’m only 45. How about a grease port?

The appliance isn’t made for beautiful violence. I once met a guy who works for the company that makes the shoulder parts. He offered me a sponsorship (stoked!), but then he watched me on a pump track. “Sorry Lee, our appliance won’t withstand that.”

I’m learning and having fun on my bike, but you can see the left shoulder is guarded. Backyard pump sesh.

At this point we’re going with:

Knowledge: Understand what’s going on in there, and how proper movement can help the situation.

Awareness: I am familiar with pain, but what kind of pain am I feeling? Muscle soreness = cool. Bone scraping bone = uncool.

Clean riding technique: Hey, it’s my job. Plus it saves lives.

Care: Physical therapy. Strength training under the care of a genius (Dee Tidwell at Enduro MTB Training). Careful movement. FOX 36, which is helping me ride black DH trails more comfortably than ever.

Cortisone injection: I got one yesterday and so far WOW. The shoulder still feels sticky and noisy, but it hurts way less than yesterday. It’s so funny to do something I do all the time — put on a shirt for example — brace for the pain and … it didn’t hurt. What I am gonna do now? Who am I without pain?

Going forward

Take good care of this thing. Be as smart, aware and strong as I can be. The order of escalation looks like:

Cortisone injections. Every six months until they stop working.

Arthroscopy. Go in and grab the floaters. Can’t they leave some axle grease in there?

Bionics. I’m waiting for the S-Works shoulder with FOX damping and Shimano electronic control.

As long as the conditions are right — proper setup, good warmup and clean technique — I can make some beautiful violence. Light hands, heavy feet!

As for you

Don’t be an idiot. If you’re a young, healthy male you just stopped reading. But seriously: Learn, know and take care of your body. Pain has always validated my life, but it shouldn’t validate yours.

>>> Muscle pain can be OK. Joint pain is never OK. If a joint hurts, seek professional help.

Be careful with surgery. Before you cut, try everything: knowledge, physical therapy, strength training, clean movement, a 2015 FOX 36. When you decide to get cut, pick the best surgeon you can find.

Pick better parents! Sorry, too late.

Let’s have fun out there!


Know more. Have more fun!

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13 replies
  1. Steph Hoke says:

    I injured my shoulder about 5 years ago while working on a client’s horse (I’m a vet). While the horse’s hoof did miss my head as it sailed past my face, the stabbing sensation I felt that day has become a smoldering murmur that flares up if I ride (horse or bike) with non-ergonomic mechanics. Thanks for sharing your pain, Lee. It gives me courage to climb back in the saddle(s) again, get stronger, and keep up with my physical therapy exercises. Hope to join you for a skills and technique clinic soon! – Steph in Ft. Collins, CO

  2. John K. says:

    Hey Lee, thanks for sharing. I think it’s amazing what you’re doing with shoulders like that! And I appreciate your advice to other riders – take care of your body!

  3. Jase says:

    Yeah know what you mean, bung left knee needs op but i’m just training past it as only 60-70% chance of full recovery after a loooong rehab. Bung shoulder after car accident and MTB accident – but guess we just learn to work around our short comings too. Part of getting older!

    Doesn’t stop us getting out there…. biking, running, snowboarding, skiing, etc. i mean you only live once right!!! 🙂

    Hope you can prolong any surgery indefinitely – good luck 🙂

  4. Nick G says:

    Total bummer about the shoulder situation. I hope the drugs, PT, and Fox 36 keep working for you (just when I thought I might be able to keep up… 😉 ).

    I don’t think people realize how big a question “Who am I without pain?” is to people with chronic pain. I didn’t until recently. I finally found a doc that was improving my back. I found myself actually avoiding scheduling appointments and it took me a while to figure out that I was actually scared of fixing it because I had no idea who/what I would be without the constant pain.

    Good luck!

  5. JoeG says:

    A clean break of my clavicle and soft tissue damage to my rotator cuff this past spring. Clavicle healed up slowly but my restrictions were finally lifted on Sept 3rd
    I went for a ride that same day. I have been riding regularly but mentally I am not ready to hit the jumps, steep downs or the obstacles, yet. There is still some pain in the rotator cuff only when im certain position. I am concern that the pain will shoot through my cuff while going over obstacle or on steep turn. I walk them for now.

  6. Dave Farrell says:

    Hi Lee,

    I had almost exactly the same issues. With both shoulders. I was diagnosed with bone on bone at age 46 my ortho doc told me I had 5 years to a replacement. 15 months ago I had an Arthrosurface hemicap put on my right shoulder, and life is good again. It’s a different kind of implant for younger patients who are active. I work with Dee too, and I’m lifting hard, riding hard, doing it all. And no pain. Email me for more details. Hang in there.

  7. Kristie Van Voorst says:

    I was recently diagnosed with bone on bone arthritis in my knee (We’ve nicknamed it B.O.B.). It sounds pretty similar to what you are going through. We like to play hard and I too am just not ready for a knee replacement. I’m starting a series of shots called Orthovisc. They are supposed to help lubricate and possibly rebuild some of the fluid in your joint without the potential side effects of cortisone. I’m just starting my journey and it’s too early to tell if I’m going to see results, but they say it helps about 80% who use it. It could be an alternative to cortisone. Good luck with whatever you decide. Feel free to email me if you have any questions. I’m sure I’ll see you out there soon!

  8. daz says:

    i feel your pain (misery loves company?)labrum surgery 1994 wore out 2006. bone on bone too? most def feels like it! 42 now, need shoulder for work(roofer), never afford surgery and recovery. only mtb now when I can afford 3 weeks off work in case I subluxate it in a fall. haven’t ridden for months now, so why am I visiting your website? you rock dude, keep on with the positive vibes, helps keep my mtb dream alive! cheers mate

  9. jim sobiek m.d. says:

    You should consider a humoral head resurfacing only. Approx 80% pain relief with no lifting or activity restriction. Excellent for young highly energetic patients. Several brand types, arthrosurface a very good implant. Good luck jim


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