Until She Met Sports Medicine Doctor Bruce Steinberg, Athena Ballas Didn’t Think She Could Play Golf Again Due to Rotator Cuff Tear

As an avid golfer, Athena Ballas was extremely disappointed to learn from her doctor that she may not be able to play again, due to severe problems in her shoulder. She was even more disappointed that she would no longer be able to do the job she loved, a labor and delivery nurse. “My situation was rather unusual. Almost 10 years ago, I saw a doctor who relieved pain in my shoulder through a series of injections. I was able to continue to golf and perform my job. However, about 8 years later, I began to experience intermittent pain, as well as a clicking and popping sensation in my left shoulder when golfing. Sleeping on my left side became painful.” Ms. Ballas knew that something had changed, and so she met with a surgeon who told her that she required an “open” surgery, and that she would need to give up her physically demanding job and golf. “I was shocked and heartbroken. While I knew that my shoulder difficulties would no doubt increase over time, I certainly never expected to hear that I would have to give up two of my great loves.” A few days later, Ms. Ballas made the decision that she needed to more fully explore her options. A friend who was undergoing physical therapy at that time, asked her therapist, who is not associated with JOI, for a recommendation. “The therapist said I needed to get to ‘the best in town: Dr. Steinberg.’”

From the first moment of her initial appointment, Ms. Ballas connected with Bruce Steinberg, M.D, specialist in upper extremities. “He reminds me of the way I practice nursing. He’s very conservative in his approach; he is an educator in that he wants his patients to understand the whole picture and he makes you feel as though you are going to work through it together.” After examination and testing, Dr. Steinberg diagnosed Ms. Ballas with a left shoulder rotator cuff tear. Ms. Ballas was very relieved when Dr. Steinberg told her that he could repair her shoulder, and that he would be able to do so arthroscopically. “I knew that my recovery would be easier if he didn’t have to make an open incision.” While Dr. Steinberg did not promise that she would be able to resume her golf, he knew he could help her to return to the job she loves. 

Dr. Steinberg performed a left shoulder massive, frayed, old retracted rotator cuff tear repair and acromioplasty. Ms. Ballas is quick to point out that her recovery was “not a bed of roses”, but that she followed Dr. Steinberg’s post-operative instructions to the letter. “Dr. Steinberg made it very clear, prior to my surgery that my therapy was going to be crucial in my recovery. If I was told to do six repetitions of an exercise, I didn’t do five, I didn’t do seven, I did six.” She believes that having a realistic understanding of what to expect prior to her surgery, and closely following Dr. Steinberg’s instruction, is what has helped her to recover. She also thinks that Dr. Steinberg’s conservative approach to recovery is part of what lends itself to his stellar reputation in the medical community. “I would guess that Dr. Steinberg’s patients have a much lower incidence of repeat surgeries, not only because of his skill as a surgeon, but also because he is adamant that thorough, structured therapy is critical to giving patients the very best opportunity for healing.”

Ms. Ballas could not be more satisfied with her outcome. “The day Dr. Steinberg cleared me to go back to work, I was so happy. And while I never mentioned that it was a priority for me, I am thrilled to be able to play golf again.” In fact, Ms. Ballas shares that the first time she played a full 18 holes, she shot an 82, “…not too shabby after having undergone shoulder surgery!” Ms. Ballas happily recommends Dr. Steinberg to others. “I wouldn’t recommend anyone other than Dr. Steinberg. He is committed to providing his patients the best possible chance to get better, and it’s apparent in every aspect of his practice.”

Learn about Shoulder Arthroscopy »

– Athena Ballas