December 21, 2009
Merwin: Casting is a Pain in the Shoulder
By John Merwin
Happy winter solstice. Today being the first official day of winter, I’m reminded of the aching twinge I feel in my right (casting arm) shoulder when it gets cold.
After about 60 years of repetitive casting motions, especially with fly rods, my shoulder was a mess, somewhat like that of an overworked baseball pitcher. The rotator cuff was rough, plus a little bone-spur growth, plus arthritis...it had gotten to a point at which I could no longer cast without substantial pain.
So I went to an orthopedic surgeon, who used various arthroscopic tools and techniques to repair my shoulder. The physical-therapy rehab was painful, arduous, and at the time seemed never-ending. But now--about three years later--the shoulder feels better than new. I can cast comfortably, without pain, and with a full range of motion.
What I found in subsequently asking around was that several of my long-time flyfishing acquaintances around the country had either just had or were about to have similar shoulder surgery. There were and are all lifelong anglers in their early 60s.
So are fishermen--especially fly fishermen--like the baseball guys for whom shoulder damage is an occupational hazard? I’ve only talked with a very small sample of them, but I’m starting to think so. Do you or someone you fish with have a shoulder twinge when you cast? And what do you do about it?