How Long Until Kobe’s Back? A Look Into Rotator Cuff Surgery and Rehab.

In the recent Los Angeles Lakers versus New Orleans Pelicans basketball game, star player, Kobe Bryant suffered a rotator cuff tear to his right shoulder. These types of injuries are common among athletes due to the high demand placed on their shoulders. However, even individuals who don’t play sports that perform repetitive overhead arm movements or lifting are at a risk for developing rotator cuff injuries.

The shoulder joint is made up of a boney joint between the head of the humerus (upper arm) and the glenoid cavity, which is part of the shoulder blade, in addition to the clavicle.  The rotator cuff, which is comprised of 4 muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis), serves to help hold the head of the humerus into the socket.

Kobe underwent rotator cuff repair surgery on January 28th and his rehabilitation phase of recovery is expected to last about 9 months. There are 3 common types of surgeries: Open repair, mini-open repair, and arthroscopic repair (from most invasive to least invasive respectively). These all help reattach the rotator cuff tendons to the humerus.

Following conventional protocol, Kobe’s post-surgical rehabilitation program with a physical therapist would include 5 basic phases that can take about 6 months: immobilization/protection, passive range of motion, active range of motion, early strengthening, and advanced strengthening. The goal of physical therapy is to restore functional motion and strength of the arm to fit the individual’s needs, which is Kobe’s case, is basketball.

Rotator cuff repair success rate and rehabilitation length of time can vary depending on the severity of injury and previous level of function. Due to playing at an elite level, Kobe’s rotator cuff repair rehabilitation may take longer than expected.

To learn more about physical therapy to restore rotator cuff motion and strength, contact us here.


1.)   Armstrong, A. M.D. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Rotator Cuff Tears. OrthoInfo. May 2011.

2.)   Armstrong, A. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Rotator Cuff Tears: Surgical Treatment Options. OrthoInfo. May 2011.

3.)   Freedman, J. M.D. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair Post-Operative Rehabilitation Protocol. Orthodoc. May 2011.

4.)   Manaka T, Ito Y, Matsumoto I, Takaoka K, Nakamura H. Functional recovery period after arthroscopic rotator cuff repair: is it predictable before surgery?. Clinical Orthopaedics And Related Research [serial online]. June 2011;469(6):1660-1666. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text

5.)   Slabaugh M, Nho S, Verma N, et al. Does the literature confirm superior clinical results in radiographically healed rotator cuffs after rotator cuff repair?. Arthroscopy: The Journal Of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery: Official Publication Of The Arthroscopy Association Of North America And The International Arthroscopy Association [serial online]. March 2010;26(3):393-403. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text