I had surgery in 2005 to reattach my infraspinatus and grind down my acromia which was fraying my bicep tendon. Took six months off, focused on PT with no swimming, came back in 2006 and won two gold and two silver at Gay Games in Chicago, swimming faster than I ever have.
No pain since then despite a lot of fly, IM and distance freestyle. I don't even think about the surgery unless someone brings it up.
I interviewed three docs out of a list of about 10 I got from friends, websites and other physician referrals. I wanted a superior surgical technician as well as an artist. I wanted a surgeon who understood what I wanted out of life and how I intended to use my shoulders for sport. I wanted a surgeon who was excited about repairing my shoulder and like me, was willing to give 100 percent to ensure success.
I chose a very conservative old-school pro sports doc who had recently resigned as the doc-of-choice for a pro football team because they pressured him to get players back on the field after surgery. He performed open surgery and kept me in a sling for four months. A lot of people said I was crazy for choosing him, and he was an idiot for not poking three holes and getting the shoulder moving immediately. I'm not saying other types of shoulder surgery don't work, but I'll be crazy and go to an idiot again if it means getting the excellent results I got.
I heard horror stories about "frozen shoulder". Yea, whatever. He handled all the PT -- he didn't trust anyone else to do it -- and a top-ranked Rolfer was responsible for total range of motion and muscle/joint flexibility. A sports psychologist, who was also a top ranked age-group marathoner and understood injuries, kept me sane during my out-of-water experience.
It may have been a common shoulder injury, and a simple shoulder repair, but it was also a traumatic experience -- from the initial pain, the diagnosis, the surgery, the physical therapy and the re-training to a higher proficiency.
It was a time to create a team of experts who had been through it before, and a time to recognize the importance of understanding how injury occurs, and an individual's central role in healing and health for the long-term.
It was a time to recalibrate the sense of time, what it means to watch fitness quickly decline while structural resilience slowly builds, what it means to redefine anxiety and defer gratification. And most of all what it means to come back stronger, more confident, and more respectful of how our bodies and minds can be very fragile, but also, if cared for, able to far exceed ours and others' expectations.