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Lyme disease as an underlying cause of supraspinatus tendinopathy in an overhead athlete.

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Supraspinatus tendinopathy is a common cause of shoulder pain seen in overhead athletes, but there appear to be no published cases that present
Lyme disease as the underlying cause of tendinopathy.
Lyme disease is diagnosed primarily by clinical signs and symptoms and then supported by laboratory tests, including enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) and Western blot testing. This case demonstrates the importance of a physical therapist’s input and clinical role in reaching the correct diagnosis in an athlete with
Lyme disease who had a diagnosis of rotator cuff impingement and tendinitis.


A 34-year-old male tennis player was seen for physical therapy for right shoulder impingement and tendinitis diagnosed by an orthopedic surgeon. He was unable to participate in sporting activities due to impairments in strength and pain. Initial examination revealed distal supraspinatus impingement and tendinopathy.


The patient was not progressing with commonly accepted interventions and began to have “arthritis-like” shoulder pain in the uninvolved left shoulder. Suspicious of an underlying condition, the physical therapist informed the physician of the patient’s updated status and referred the patient to the physician to discuss the current symptoms in therapy. After testing, the patient was diagnosed with chronic
Lyme disease and underwent antibiotic therapy.


Many active patients spend time in the outdoors, increasing their risk of exposure to a vector for Borrelia burgdorferi. Physical therapists spend a larger portion of time with patients than other health care professionals and due to this extended contact and musculoskeletal knowledge are able to recognize atypical musculoskeletal disorders or musculoskeletal manifestations of unusual pathologies, including
Lyme disease.

Phys Ther. 2012 May;92(5):740-7. doi: 10.2522/ptj.20110220. Epub 2012 Jan 12. Case Reports

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