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Donnie LeBlanc

Donnie LeBlanc
Procedure: Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair

A long-time Edwards resident who works as an athletic and personal trainer, Donnie LeBlanc has trained some pretty elite athletes over the years and has seen numerous clients struggle with shoulder issues.  So, when his own shoulder started giving him problems, he pushed himself to train around the pain. But when the persistent pain started getting progressively worse and began hindering his athletic lifestyle, Donnie decided it was time to seek a diagnosis.

Donnie chose to call Dr. Paul Abbott, a surgeon with Vail-Summit Orthopaedics since 1993 who specializes in shoulder problems, sports medicine, trauma fractures and dislocations. Donnie had heard of Dr. Abbott’s reputation as an excellent shoulder specialist and had been a patient of Vail-Summit Orthopaedics previously for a knee injury.

Donnie made an appointment with Dr. Abbott, who ordered an MRI, and “five minutes later, I’m sitting in the office going over the results with him,” remembers Donnie. “That’s as good as it gets. They are the best. I’ve been to other places where you wait for hours. With VSO, they are pretty much always on time. You get in and get what you’re looking for.”

The MRI showed a torn rotator cuff as well as a tear to the biceps tendon. “I’m sure the tears were caused by an accumulation of all the aggressive athletic things I’ve done in my life,” says Donnie, who has spent years as a competitive water-skier and enjoys downhill skiing among other sports. “I’ve been brutal to myself during my 54 years.”

Dr. Abbott recommended a surgical treatment called arthroscopic rotator cuff repair. “Dr. Abbott was very thorough going over my MRI and determining the diagnosis. I didn’t have a whole lot of options if I wanted to continue to do what I do,” says Donnie.

A rotator cuff is a tendon linking four muscles which cover the "ball" of the shoulder - or the head of the humerus. The muscles work together to lift and rotate the shoulder. A rotator cuff tear may result from an acute injury such as a fall or may be caused by chronic wear and tear with degeneration of the tendon. Typically, people with a torn rotator cuff feel pain in the front of their shoulder that radiates down the side of their arm. It may be present with overhead activities such as lifting or reaching.

During the arthroscopic procedure, two or three small puncture wounds are made. The joint is examined through a fiberoptic scope connected to a television camera. Small instruments are used to remove bone and soft tissue. “Dr. Abbott explained my limitations after surgery very well and told me what to expect.”  Donnie went to physical therapy for a month following surgery.

Two years later, when Donnie started having similar pain in his other shoulder, he didn’t waste anytime calling Dr. Abbott again. “I dealt with the pain in my first shoulder for much longer than with the second one,” he says. “I had such a great outcome with my first surgery, I didn’t think twice about going back in.”

As a trainer, Donnie has seen people to train around the pain for years. “But when you start to have tears, you need to have it looked at. I tell people in my job that they need to find out what’s going on; they need to get a diagnosis.”

Today, Donnie says both shoulders are stronger than ever and is back to bench pressing 100 pound dumb-bells on a ball. “I’m 100% doing my personal workouts.”