I Got My Test Results (BAD NEWS)

If you’ve been watching my videos over the last few months, you might have noticed the sleeve I am wearing on my elbow. A few months ago, I was walking my son into school and he slipped on an ice patch. Luckily I was able to catch him but in the process, I ended up injuring myself. What I thought might have been a supinator strain turned out to be a small tear in the bicep which I found out through a recent MRI.

Being a physical therapist and knowing how injuries can also stem from issues above and below a joint, and knowing I have a history of damage in my shoulder through a labrum tear, I requested my shoulder undergo an MRI as well.

That labrum tear occurred while I was working for the New York Mets on a routine afternoon before a game. I made a comment to one of my players that third base didn’t look as far from right field as it did on TV. We made a bet on whether or not I could throw a baseball that far and thinking nothing of it, I tried to launch it. Turns out, the inside of my shoulder was more explosive than my throw! With the immediate pain and instability that I felt, I suspected I tore my labrum.

Fast forward to today’s MRI results. As it turns out, a labrum tear was not the only bit of damage that is present in my shoulder. In fact, not only is my labrum hanging on by a thread, but I have 50 percent thickness tear in my supraspinatus (responsible for external rotation), a small subacromial spur, moderate to severe glenohumeral degeneration, and mild AC joint degeneration.

In other words, I have the shoulder of an 80 year old!

You might think I am in a ton of discomfort all the time, given the results. Well, quite the opposite. What I think this underscores is that imaging doesn’t always tell the whole story. You can have results showing damage, but have no symptoms whereas you can have a whole list of symptoms but the images show no damage. These results can be a helpful tool, but should not dictate your approach to training.

I think the best thing you can do first is to get a diagnosis, that way you just have an idea of what’s going on. While your healthcare provider may advise you against training, we know that we have the option of training around an injury to make sure the gains keep coming, which is what I’ve been doing all these years.

The next step is to find out what does and doesn’t work for you when it comes to working out. Use this opportunity to explore different methods and implements of training. This means you should be looking at not just different exercises, but variations of those exercises as well, because that could make a huge difference.

In the case of a shoulder injury and bench pressing, I would suggest grabbing very light weight and trying all three angles – flat, incline, and decline. Not only that, change the speed at which your pressing. Slowing down your reps might create more stability and less discomfort. What else? See what equipment allows you to press without issue. A barbell might be irritating, but cables and / or dumbbells might not cause a problem. Range of motion is another avenue to explore for training with an injury.

I think that the exercise is less important than the movement pattern itself. If you have knee pain from a standard back squat, you may benefit from squatting to a box – while not the same exercise, the movement pattern remains and is worth exploring because you can gain similar benefits when it comes to building muscle.

In my case, while taking care of my shoulder initially, I avoided horizontal pressing. However, in order to continue training my chest, I performed cable crossovers. This allowed me to train around the injury to make sure that the gains kept coming, even though I was doing the “standard” chest building exercises.

So this underscores the point that if you take an educated approach to your injury and your training, then you won’t have to worry about skipping the gym altogether. There are all kinds of modifications that can be made in order to make sure that you don’t lose out on the gains that you’ve been working so hard for, despite the injury.

If you are looking for a workout program that will help you train with an injury and allow you to make gains without compromise, then you are going to want to check out the ATHLEAN-X training programs via the link below.

For more videos on training around injuries and injury prevention, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on YouTube using the link below and remember to turn on your notifications so that you never a miss a video when it’s published.

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52 thoughts on “I Got My Test Results (BAD NEWS)

  1. ATHLEAN-X™ says:

    *NEW “FAST ACTION” Q&A* – Leave your most burning question about this video or any other training, PT or nutrition question within the first 2 hours of this video’s release (AS A SEPARATE COMMENT!!) and I will pick 8 to get a detailed reply from me right here in the comments. Answers will be posted within the first 24-48 hours of you leaving the question. Good luck!

    • emil georgiev says:

      Jeff it would better if you show us you blood test results to see that you’re normal?

    • Oli says:

      What about the opposite, I had an mri and even electrolysis of the nerves and everything comes back perfect – but my shoulder doesnt feel stable, the right blade is winging and it just doesnt feel like my back muscles are working with my shoulder. Tried working on serratus anterior and rear delts but just something isnt right and im not a hypochondriac.

  2. Andrew Turner says:

    Jeff, you’re the best physical training teacher there is – you got me out of a very similar shoulder injury to the one one you got from the Mets. You have taught me so much. I wish you a speedy recovery and look forward to watching your journey there.

  3. Funk Roberts says:

    JEFF I am praying and sending you MUCH LOVE and ENERGY for your recovery….but as you say you are still a BEAST even with the MRI…Anyways I LOVE YOU BRUTHA!!!!!!!!!! – Funkster

    • Joe Jacques Schulz says:

      Franco Colombo crashed his knee in a spectacular accident and still won some years later the Mr Olympia. It is amazing what athlets can do if they have medical knowledge. In case you’re too young to know: Colombo also trained Sylvester Stallone for Rambo II.

  4. SCOTT LEVY says:

    Hey Jeff, I have a SLAP tear in my labrum and was told I needed surgery would never be able to do military presses again. That was 7 years ago. Rehabbed it and went about my business. I still do shoulder presses with the same weight as before, but I’m a lot more careful. I have good and bad days, but nothing debilitating. It is my belief that strengthening around the injury helps. FYI, just turned 63 and still lift what I did in my 30s. Best of luck with that shoulder.

    • Mike Sawyer says:

      Scotty – I’m right behind you and – congratulations for keeping fit your whole life… Just be careful now because it’s an endurance race to the finish line.

    • Brandon Hamlin says:

      Same story here. Tore something in my shoulder about 20 years ago and worked around it. Recently re-aggravated it and got the MRI done – SLAP tear. Doctor recommended surgery, but fortunately it was a challenge to schedule it due to covid, so the delay allowed me to rehab it enough on my own to get back to being pain free again. Took about 6 months, but the key is to research, know your limits of what you can and cannot do, and be consistent in your approach. I do believe that strengthening the surrounding structures can minimise the impact of an injury.

    • Jan Hruškovič says:

      Hi, i have SLAP tear as well, i am probably going for surgery, because it’s quite limiting. Anyone can give me more advise about that? Thanks

  5. Bluesman John says:

    Thanks Jeff… It’s good to hear you say this. I myself have been nursing a shoulder injury along for 6 weeks or more. I refused to stop lifting but I alter what exercises I am doing… literally from week to week. If it hurts …I change the variation… Or move to another exercise. I listen to my body as to what is working for my shoulder at this time.
    My wife says I should lay off lifting for a while….(No can do) so I work thru and around the injury.
    Thanks again Jeff…get well soon!

  6. Levi Efrauim says:

    As always, solid advice from Jeff. For the younger folks in the audience, it really does not get easier as you get older. Those small injuries you suffered at 20, 25, 30 become nagging (or more serious, painful or debilitating) as you get older. I’m talking 50+ and I speak from experience.

    I started working out when I was 15 to prepare for wrestling. As I close in on 62, I look back at the nearly 50 years of physical training I’ve been doing- consistent heavy lifting, martial arts, jogging and whatever other cruelties I’ve inflicted on this body. Some parts, my shoulders and hips especially, don’t work well anymore. I’ve got lower vertebrae that no longer have any cushioning material. So, like Jeff said, I’ve had to figure ways around them to keep my body working and as fit as possible.

    Barbells are out for pressing movements and squats, and dumbbells have replaced them, as well as cables, bands and the occasional kettlebell. None of it matters as the only thing the body knows is it’s facing resistance. You can make it work. Just keep moving forward and don’t let excuses stop you.

    • Kumud kenedy says:

      I disagree with the not get easier part. There are people who have completely healed from injuries to the point it no longer affects them in ANY way. And im talking severe injuries. So maybe it didnt get easier for you, but that dont mean its not gonna get easier for others. Apart from that i agree with what you said.

    • Asif Rashid says:

      Yeah i think bone broth is good for connective tissue but also training to strengthen tendons. The muscles can usually take a beating but the joints and tendons need to be treated carefully and strenghened when possible.

    • Barry Williams says:

      @Owen Valentine similar age to you, been training for 35 years, the last few years bands have been a god send, ten minute shoulder warm up with bands works wonders, in my very early years i probably wouldn’t have needed too, however my advice to anyone out there reading this is get yourself a band or two and burn those shoulders before an upper body workout…(no matter how old you are, don’t wait for an injury)

  7. Todd Wray says:

    “…give you guys the understanding and knowledge.” “…more informed training approaches.”
    Yes, that is why I watch and keep watching. Sorry about your injury. Thanks for an honest, open, and uplifting talk.

  8. Jonathan Boote says:

    This video is so relevant to me right now. Dislocated my knee 3 weeks ago and I got back to training this week. I think I overdid it yesterday though cos it’s been pretty painful and swollen today! Lesson learned I guess… hope your recovery is quick Jeff! Thanks for the vids as always

  9. Johnny Chung says:

    Question: one of my shoulders always seems to give out when I’m trying heavier weights, it feels like something twitches inside. What exercises or stretches would I be able to do to be able to help alleviate this? It happens during bench, pull-ups, etc but not consistently. Thanks!

    • meshal alzahrani says:

      It happened to me once!
      I remember I quit the gym for like two months. When I got back I still felt that my shoulder isn’t stable yet but it was much better. So I started with light weights and gradually increased them. I got over it completely by about several months later.

    • Joe Pfaff says:

      (Not a professional ) I did lots of cable work and heavy or body weight dips consistently until I recovered and was able to go back to some exercise with no pain just my two cents

    • Crooked Dog Homebrew says:

      Pretty sure jeff covered this a while back maybe 3 or 4 years ago have a look at his videos about the face pull

  10. livenhfree says:

    One of the best things I’ve learned from you and from other PTs is that many injuries will get better faster, if you train the muscles around them to be stronger and to support the injury as it goes through the healing process, which is kinda counterintuitive since our tendency is to baby the injury. Thanks for all you do, Jeff!

    • IXI Futureproof says:

      And when you get a scan/image that reads bad, remember treat the (wo)man not the scan.
      Jeff says it here. Work. And work on what you can do, in the range that you can do it.
      Lots of people give up. Then the body adapts. That’s when things can escalate.
      Take your time, work through range and pain free. Achieve your goals (keeping them realistic).

  11. Andrew Huberman says:

    Very sorry to hear it but I really appreciate the post because it clarifies a number of things I know myself and other people get confused about in terms of how to deal with injuries. Your knowledge and content continues to be an endless well of practical wisdom. Thank you!

  12. Mike Caraffa says:

    I love that you took this unfortunate opportunity to talk about how to train around injuries, a topic I’m actually interested in as I recently sprained my ankle for the first time. Wishing speedy recovery!

  13. MR.Freedom says:

    Hey Jeff! Almost 1.5 years back I sprained my wrist, and still to this day when I exert it even a little, (like in playing sports or lifting something heavy) I feel the same pain again building up and not leaving for some days. Although It’s bad a day or two after and then slowly dissipates still I’m worried about why this pain isn’t leaving me alone. Because of this pain, I was afraid of working out and haven’t worked out since then. I’m afraid that I’ll lead it to arthritis or something.

    I sprained it in a twisting motion of the wrist when I was mounting the barbell back on the bench I have and while trying to grip it again by my right hand when it slipped out of the mount (not while lying on the bench but standing straight up after performing a shoulder press).
    I work out at home so I just mount my barbell back on the shitty bench I have which has its barbell mount at around Abdominal level.

    I tried to do some mobility exercises suggested by precision movement channel on YouTube, but the pain was getting worse and worse after each session that after 4 sessions the pain was almost unbearable so I had to stop. He mentioned how most people sprain their wrist in either flexion or extension of the wrist but I sprained it with a supinated grip and in a twisting motion.

    Please help me jeff as I want to take care of this problem so that it doesn’t comeback haunting me when I get older.

    • Thomas J. says:

      I’m not Jeff, but you should probably get evaluated by a rehab doc or at least a physical therapist before attempting to do YouTube wrist exercises again. Like what Jeff said in this video, we need that baseline to know what’s really wrong so we’d know how to proceed.

    • MR.Freedom says:

      @Thomas J. I got an mri done back when it happened (after 3 months of it happening). The report was clear with everything normal. Haven’t gone to a physical therapist. I plan to go to a therapist soon.

  14. J T says:

    I genuinely think this is one of the most important videos on the fitness side of YouTube and everyone needs to watch it.

  15. Oxford Medical Summaries says:

    As a doctor who has come across and interpreted thousands of scan reports, this is more in keeping with degenerative changes of a 55-60 year old. Of course the injury accelerates OA formation, hence the moderate-severe glenohumeral degeneration. Also, image findings almost always precede symptoms so do take extra care going forward.

    • Patrick O'Keeffe says:

      @Am Y The most worrying part for me is that as a renowned fitness coach who was probably working with these baseball players at the time….that he was stupid enuff the throw that ball at maximum effort with no warm-up. You wouldn’t go cold into doing your max effort of any type of activity even at running without warming up.

      It’s grand talking about how he’s going to work around his injury….but it would have been more informative to tell people on how to avoid being stupid to get that injury in the first place instead of dismissing it in a funny “betting’ story.

    • april hassell says:

      @Am Y I believe a moderate tear can be healed over time if you have the lifestyle to accommodate it. I had bicep tendon tear and the surgeon found the supraspinaous tear when he was doing surgery. It didnt show on MRI. I say get the shoulder cleaned up with surgery. Come to wi we have the best surgeon Dr. ERICKSON

  16. Stoney Josephine says:

    For the Q&A: how do you know when you’re overtraining? My workout is intense and I’ve been told I’m doing too much

    • chad revels says:

      Good question. My doc just told me my muscle enzymes were elevated over four times the normal according to labs.

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