Jeff’s Story: Back to Teaching Without the Pain

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Cleaning up storm damage to trees in his backyard, 40-year-old Jeff Smith fell and hurt his right shoulder. He continued with his work, not thinking the injury was anything significant. But after two weeks, when he was playing ball with his four-year-old daughter, he felt pain in his shoulder and knew something was wrong.

Jeff, in his 18th year of teaching, is also the band director at Miami East High School. Because of his injury, he had to ice his shoulder every afternoon after marching band practice and especially after a performance. He decided to talk to the school’s athletic trainer. She did an assessment and recommended that Jeff make an appointment with Mark R. Zunkiewicz, MD, of Premier Orthopedics, part of Premier Physician Network, the orthopedic physician used by football team members.

Dr. Zunkiewicz, also known as Dr. Z, suspected Jeff had a SLAP tear, the short term for "superior labral tear from anterior to posterior." This injury to the glenoid labrum was confirmed when Jeff had an MRI. Dr. Z recommended a shoulder joint surgery to repair the SLAP tear.

Jeff reports that because the tear happened where half of his bicep was attached, Dr. Z said he could do a more aggressive surgery, a biceps tenodesis to make a more complete repair to the labral tear.

“Dr. Z was so focused on me and knew I wanted to do whatever it took to get back to living a full life,” says Jeff. “Surgery is never good news, but at least I had a solution.”

Dr. Z performed Jeff’s surgery at Upper Valley Medical Center and Jeff went home the same day. After 10 days of recovery, he began physical therapy, quite determined to do everything possible to ensure a full recovery.

“I wanted to golf again, and I refused to not be able to teach my daughter how to shoot a hockey puck someday,” says Jeff, a huge hockey fan himself. “Very importantly, I wanted to be able to do my job at school pain free, with all the mobility a band director needs.”

Jeff got his wish. He has a full range of motion and no restrictions.

“Dr. Z and everyone at Premier Orthopedics are just great,” he says. “From the time you walk in to the receptionists, to the nurses, everybody was very kind, and that's what you look for.”