Mountain bike shoulder fun

Hey Lee,

I read your articles involving your shoulder surgeries and issues. I myself have a torn labrum and am looking into surgery due to the instability of my shoulder and it’s frequent dislocation. I was curious if you went with the open surgery or if yours was laproscopic and how that is working out for you as a rider. On a lighter note, i’ve purchased all three of your books and can’t put them down. Thanks for such a great contribution to the biking community.

Jordan C.

Hi Jordan,

Thanks for writing, and thanks for the kind words about the books. This topic deserves a more thorough treatment, but I don’t want to leave you hanging, so:

This came out of my left shoulder in 2008. What’s crazy: The shoulder felt better with it in there.

My surgeries have been laproscopic. My left labrum was repaired in 2002. The shoulder never felt great, but by 2008 it really hurt, and the doc removed what he called “loose bodies,” which are chunks of bones that have broken off then grown like oysters. One was huge.

My shoulders are extremely messed up. Lots of damage over the years, too much riding the wrong way and “riding through the pain.” My right needs a major re-do (including a torn labrum and repairing a clavicle that’s been broken for years). My left is grinding itself into pieces and will need eventual replacement. Yay.

Freshly broken right clavicle in 2003

Still broken right clavicle in 2008. It’s always been sore, but I rode and raced as if it was healed. The lingering break was discovered when I went in for cracked ribs. Someone messed up.

Do what your doctor says. Be patient. Follow your physical therapy. Don’t do too much too soon. If it hurts in the joint, STOP doing what you’re doing. There’s a difference between pushing to get strong and destroying yourself. If your muscles hurt, man up. If your joints hurt, back off!

I am serious here. Please don’t make my mistakes.

At this point I’m trying to stay as strong as I can, keep working and take care of the babies. The stronger I am, the more money I can make, and the longer I’ll last before the next big surgeries. Also, the more fun I can have.

Day to day, both shoulders are sore, and the wrong movements (like sleeping) hurt more intensely. My left range of motion is very limited (it’s hard to keep that elbow out), and the joint feels notchy. Despite the broken clavicle, the right side is way stronger.

If I do too much, they hurt more. If I do too little, they hurt more. I feel the best with moderate, varied activity. Some riding, some yoga, strength work, lifting babies, random feats of strength and occasional track builds.

At Sea Otter this year I did five big days of building the pro pump track, two hectic trail rides, rocked second in dual slalom and placed top 10 in downhill. On the way home my right shoulder was killing and my left was locking up — but I had a great week and it was worth it!

Good luck and take care of yourself*,

— Lee

*For example, don’t race several seasons of DH with a broken collarbone.

Know more. Have more fun!

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