Lifelong Athlete Back to Full Speed After Shoulder Surgery

Hinsdale resident John Blacketor rigorously maintained the lifestyle of an athlete after graduating from college, playing hockey, tennis, golf and football; running; lifting; skiing; and more. He wasn’t interested in slowing down.

“I played hockey throughout high school and continued in men’s leagues after college, up until I was 48,” Blacketor explained. “I was a goaltender, which is always a position that carries a high risk of injury.”

Eventually, shoulder, knee, and ongoing groin injuries—paired with late weeknight games—forced Blacketor into hockey “retirement.”

While playing baseball and softball, he developed right shoulder issues and eventually was limited to playing the infield. Determined to stay active but relieve stress on his shoulder, he focused on skiing and running. He remained active and generally pain-free.  However, shoulder pain became a serious problem after a skiing accident, which compelled him to finally seek medical advice. He underwent several months of physical therapy, which helped his mobility, but not his pain.

Finding the Right Specialist

Needing more advice, he consulted Midwest Orthopedics at Rush sports medicine specialist and surgeon, Dr. Charles Bush-Joseph, who referred him to Dr. Gregory Nicholson, a shoulder specialist at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush.

Dr. Nicholson performed a history and physical examination of the shoulder and upper extremity. He ordered an MRI for Blacketor which showed he had a torn rotator cuff, cartilage damage and bone spurs (also known as “osteophytes”). To offer some relief, Nicholson gave Blacketor a cortisone shot but shortly thereafter, the pain returned.

Dr. Nicholson discussed surgery to address the necessary shoulder repairs. Blacketor agreed. “I didn’t want to go through this pain off and on,” Blacketor explains. “So, I said, ‘why don’t we cut to the chase and get this fixed?’ and Dr. Nicholson agreed.”

Dr. Nicholson performed surgery arthroscopically to repair his torn rotator cuff, address the cartilage damage and remove the bone spurs. This is a minimally invasive procedure performed through small incisions called portals. There is less soft tissue damage, and less pain and swelling post-surgery. Blacketor experienced this first hand as his recovery progressed ahead of schedule. He needed pain medication for just a couple days and completed physical therapy in less than eight weeks. Today, he has full range of motion with no pain and is back playing golf.

Back in Action

The park across the street from Blacketor’s house has a tennis court which frequently causes tennis balls to stray into his yard. Prior to surgery, Blacketor says “I would walk out, pick up a half dozen tennis balls, and throw them back into the courts underhanded.” Post-surgery he is tossing them back over the fence overhanded.

He recommends Dr. Nicholson to anyone with shoulder pain. What he liked best about him is his “straightforward attitude” coupled with his excellent surgical skills.


If you would like to discuss your shoulder or elbow pain with Dr. Gregory Nicholson, call to schedule an appointment at 877-MD-BONES or visit www.rushortho.com/appointments.

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