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Rotator Cuff tears in Maryland Workers’ Compensation

Rotator cuff injuries are some of the most common injuries I have seen in my Maryland workers’ compensation practice.  Particularly in the Hagerstown area where we see significant warehouse and distribution growth. 

The rotator cuff is made up of four muscles in your shoulder area.  The four specific muscles are  the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis.  These four muscles attach to the  bone in your shoulder.  These four muscles wrap around the shoulder and form what we call the rotator cuff.  The rotator cuff muscles are vital for use and movement of the shoulder.  That is why an injury to the rotator cuff can be disabling, limiting, and actually quite painful.


The two most common causes of a rotator cuff injury are repetitive strain and heavy lifting.  With reference to repetitive strain, these injuries occur frequently in warehousing and manufacturing where workers are performing the same jobs over and over again and lifting heavy items repetitively and on a daily basis.  In other words, these repetitive tasks end up fraying the rotator cuff muscles over time.

Heavy lifting can also cause rotator cuff tears.  We see these frequently when workers lift heavy objects, lift patients in nursing homes, lift heavy objects overhead, and quite frankly lift heavy objects incorrectly.  Lifting can put tremendous strain on the rotator cuff tendons and the shoulder joint.  Another way we see rotator cuff injuries occur frequently are slip and falls at work.  These usually happen not by falling onto the actual shoulder, but when the injured workers puts the arm out to brace the fall.  These type of slip and fall events happen frequently in the winter months or in warehouse facilities that have cardboard, paper, and other packing items on the floor.

Rotator cuff strains come in varying degrees.  These strains or tears can be partial thick tears or  full massive thick tears.  Medical treatment for these tears would depend on the extent of the tear, the symptoms experienced by the injured worker, and the age of the injured worker. 


The symptoms of a rotator cuff strain or tear vary person to person.  Some people believe they have a neck injury because the symptoms may radiate into the neck.  What other symptoms may occur with a rotator cuff strain or tear?

  • Pain in the shoulder joint and in the front and underneath of the shoulder;
  • Weakness;
  • Pain with reaching over head or behind the back;
  • Difficulty sleeping at night;
  • Painful clicking and grinding with movement;
  • Pain radiating into the neck;
  • Swelling in the shoulder area; and
  • Decease in range of motion all over the shoulder

Rotator cuff injuries can range from annoying for a period of time to completely disabling.  Most rotator cuff injuries can be diagnosed with certain tests during a clinical physical examination.  Those findings can be confirmed by an MRI scan.  Should you be diagnosed with a rotator cuff injury, treatment will depend on the extent of the tear.


Treatment for a rotator cuff injury will be determine by your doctor.  Treatment will likely be dictated by the extent of injury, intensity of symptoms, age of the injured worker, and appearance of the tear on diagnostic scans. 

Initially, your doctor may attempt conservative treatment.  Conservative treatments can include work restrictions limiting your ability to use the shoulder, ice application, rest, and pain and anti-inflammatory medications.   Your doctor may also prescribe home exercise therapy or formal physical therapy.  Conservative treatment can typically help partial tears or tendinitis. 

With more severe cases, the injured worker may require surgery to repair the rotator cuff.  Even more severe cases and dependent on the extent of the tear and age of the injured worker, the doctor may recommended options for shoulder replacement. 


First and foremost report the injury to a supervisor right away.  There are statutory timelines to do so. Second, seek medical treatment right away.  Finally, call Mooney Law for a FREE CONSULTATION.  We can help guide you through the work injury process so that no mistakes are made.  We only recover a fee if we recover for YOU!  Call Mooney Law today at 833-MOONEYLAW or at 717-200-HELP to speak with me about your work injury.  You can also visit our firm online at

Mooney Law serves injured workers throughout Northern Maryland and Central Pennsylvania. call today for a free consultation.