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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