New procedure rebuilds shoulder without replacing it
Reconstructed rotator cuff puts retired high school coach back in the swing of things
Deborah Circelli Published: 12/18/2017
After 36 years of teaching and coaching, Reginald Lucas was looking forward to retiring and playing a lot of golf.
But the one-time minor league baseball player and former college basketball coach tore the rotator cuff in his left shoulder. The pain was so intense he cringed every time he lifted his arm.
“I had a lot of restless nights. I couldn't sleep. If I rolled over on it the wrong way, I had a sharp pain,” said Lucas, who taught physical education in high school and once coached the men's basketball team at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville.
After several rotator cuff surgeries with no relief, Lucas almost gave up hope until he met Kevin Kaplan, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Jacksonville Orthopaedic Institute trained in a unique procedure called superior capsular reconstruction.
Most rotator cuff tears can be fixed, but there are times when the torn tissues become so retracted that the rotator cuff, much like a rubber band that loses its elasticity, cannot be directly repaired.
Most patients are left with two options: live with the pain and limited motion, or have their whole shoulder joint replaced.
Capsular reconstruction offers a third way. Instead of replacing the shoulder’s ball and socket, Dr. Kaplan can reconstruct the rotator cuff using donated cadaver tissue, an approach similar to knee reconstruction procedures.
Lucas was one of the first patients to undergo the procedure in Florida.
“Medicine is always evolving and this is an evolution in orthopedics,” said Dr. Kaplan, the head team physician for the Jacksonville Jaguars. “This technique is still new, but patients are doing fantastic after their one-year follow up.”
Six weeks after superior capsular reconstruction, Lucas said the movement in his shoulder was completely restored.
“It's like I have a new shoulder,” said Lucas, who played baseball in college and spent a year as an infielder in the Atlanta Braves farm system. “Dr. Kaplan stepped outside the box to try something that had never been done before.”