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Robert Rolf, M.D.

Comprehensive shoulder care to meet every need.

When you have a specific shoulder injury or condition, it is important to seek the care of a specialist. At Beacon Orthopaedics, we believe that the best care is provided by physicians who sub-specialize.

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1998-2002: University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH; Doctor of Medicine
1992-1996: University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN; B.S. Chemical Engineering
2004-2004: Emory University, Atlanta, GA; General Surgery Internship
2003-2006: Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Emory University, Atlanta, GA; Resident


2007-2008: Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA; Assistant in Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Shoulder Fellow


2010: Board Certified, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
2011: Subspecialty Certificate in Orthopaedic Sports Medicine

Shoulder Treatment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Shoulder Arthritis?

Arthritis is a common disease that affects the shoulder, causing joint pain, stiffness and swelling. When a person gets arthritis, they lose cartilage or the cushion in the joint. Cartilage allows the joint to glide easily during motion. When cartilage wears, there is bone on bone rubbing which can be painful. In addition, the joint becomes inflamed and there is usually a restriction of motion.

How is Shoulder Arthritis diagnosed?

Many patients will complain of a deep ache that can radiate to the lateral arm. The pain usually gets worse with movement or activity. With time, there may even be pain at rest and eventually, patients will awaken at night with shoulder pain. Patients will complain of grinding and difficulty with motion. In the office, a physician will diagnose arthritis through a thorough physical exam and taking the proper x-rays.

What is Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

In total shoulder replacement, the damaged surfaces of the humeral head and glenoid socket are resurfaced with metal and plastic implants. The humeral head is replaced with a metal component and the glenoid socket is replaced with a polyethylene component that is glued in with bone cement. When both sides of the shoulder are replaced, it is called a total shoulder replacement. When only the humeral head is replaced, it is called a shoulder hemiarthroplasty or a partial shoulder replacement.

What are some of the differences between Total Shoulder Replacement and Reverse Shoulder Replacement surgery?

A traditional total shoulder replacement matches natural shoulder anatomy. A reverse shoulder replacement inverts the natural anatomy of the ball and socket. Patients with joint damage but healthy surrounding tendons and muscles are often better candidates for traditional total shoulder replacements. When the tendons on top of the shoulder joint, often called the rotator cuff, are damaged, a reverse total shoulder replacement may be the best option. Following surgery, the inverted ball and socket joint can be moved using the deltoid.

Why should I consider Shoulder Replacement Surgery?

Shoulder replacement surgery should be performed to alleviate pain and improve function. It is an excellent option for patients that have failed other conservative measures such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medication.

What is the difference between a chronic torn rotator cuff and acute tear? Do both require surgery?

An acute rotator cuff tear is a tear that occurs after an injury. There is usually sudden pain in the shoulder accompanied by limited movement and weakness. A chronic tear is a tear that is greater than 6 to 12 weeks old. They usually involve the dominant arm and gradually worsen. People may develop weakness. There are many functioning patients with chronic tears. At sixty, fifty percent of asymptomatic patients would have a partial thickness rotator cuff tear if they had an MRI. At 80, fifty percent of patients would have a full thickness tear (all the way through). Chronic tears usually require surgery if the patient has persistent pain or weakness despite 6-12 weeks of physical therapy. Most acute rotator cuff tears or tears in young patients should be fixed surgically.

Do you have to repair a torn bicep even if it was injured months ago?

The biceps is a muscle on the front of the shoulder that allows a person to flex and supinate the elbow. It has two muscle bellies, the long head of the biceps that inserts on the labrum at the top of the shoulder socket and the short head of the biceps that inserts on the front of the scapula at its coracoid. At the elbow, the bicep muscle bellies merge into one tendon that inserts into the radius. Surgery is typically recommended when it is the dominant arm and the patient’s job requires significant use of the arm. Surgery is not always recommended for ruptures that occur near the shoulder at the long head of the biceps. Most people respond well to physical therapy.

I don’t want surgery but I can’t lift my arm, would therapy help relieve the pain?

There are many reasons a person may have pain in the shoulder and not all of them need to be treated surgically. Most shoulder ailments improve with physical therapy. It is helpful to have a thorough physical exam so that physical therapy can be guided appropriately. Sometimes, a platelet injections (platelet injections) or steroid injection can be helpful.

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Physical Therapy Protocols

Below you will find a list of physical therapy protocols that can be followed after having a procedure performed by Dr. Rolf. These are intended to provide guidelines of progression in recovery. They include weight bearing status, ranges of motion, use of a brace, exercises or stretches, and other information.

Professional Organization Memberships and Affiliations