Those of us who spend hours on a keyboard each day - especially ones that torque our wrists and thumbs out of their natural stance - may have already experienced the pain and stiffness that can come from asking our body parts to do the same thing over and over again. And such is the case for athletes, as well.
When Taylor Sishc arrived at Stanford as an All-American high school diver, with years of devoted practice responsible for that achievement, he found himself with a similar repetitive use injury. He had severe weakness in his left arm, and the trick - as with many medical challenges - was to figure exactly what was going on and how to fix it.
As a member of Stanford's elite diving team, Sishc had access to expert coaches, trainers, therapists and doctors, including vascular surgeon Jason Lee, MD. As I wrote in an Inside Stanford Medicine article:
Lee, an associate professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, had his suspicions about what the problem was: Sishc might have thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition often seen in athletes but also found in people who use their arms in a repetitive motion, which can lead to the compression of nerves or blood vessels, or both, in the thoracic outlet — an area bounded by the base of the neck and the first rib.
Diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, also known as TOS, is not straightforward. "There's no one blood test or radiographic test or physical exam finding that gives you that 'aha' moment," Lee said. "It's a combination of positive and negative tests."
Sishc had been a gymnast since childhood and a serious competitive diver since he was 13. By the time he reached Stanford, he had been lifting his arms over his head in a similar motion for years — exactly the kind of long-term overuse that creates thoracic outlet syndrome...
My story details how Lee's hunch was correct and how the therapies Sishc received slowly but surely got him back on the diving board in championship form.
Previously: ‘Snorkel’ stents create lifeline to organs in method of treating complex abdominal aortic aneurysms
Photo by Todd Holland