A shoulder injury is no match for this strongman competitor
Imagine being able to lift something as heavy as a refrigerator above your head. Considering it can weigh around 300 pounds, that seems like an impossible feat. But for a strongman competitor like Joe LoStracco, it’s all in a day’s work.
As an avid athlete, Joe played basketball at the collegiate level, but after graduating he began looking for something that would continue to challenge him physically. Not being much of a runner but still wanting to keep the competitive juices flowing, Joe turned to lifting. Over time he got stronger and his hobby turned competitive, but things came to a halt once he began experiencing pain in his shoulder. What started out as a routine session, lifting an overhead press with a log, Joe’s left arm shot up but the right arm didn’t go anywhere. This was an immediate red flag so Joe began testing his arm with something as small as a 10-pound weight and even that caused some pain.
There didn’t seem to be a defining moment that initiated Joe’s shoulder pain. He attributes it to a possible irritation that stemmed from bench pressing or shoulder pressing, but regardless, he knew something wasn’t right so he talked with his doctor. After a few failed attempts at cortisone shots, Joe turned to Dr. Stephen Linton, a physical therapist with our Blue Bell clinic in the Philadelphia region. The clinic was a bit of a drive for Joe, but he’d heard great things about Dr. Linton and the experience he had with athletes.
A thorough examination revealed that Joe had rotator cuff stability issues and a minor labral tear. Dr. Linton described the pain as something that was caused by instability in the joint, perhaps a weakness or abnormality in the muscle, ultimately causing a tear. This led to some discomfort while sleeping, and made it difficult to move his arm overhead. But, for the most part, day-to-day activities weren’t so much of an issue, it was the strongman-type activities that were proving to be difficult and causing the most pain. Lifting boulders and pulling cars were activities that were typically not that hard for Joe but were now proving to be quite challenging.
Joe LoStracco is shown doing a deadlift with 690 pounds, and pulling a 26,000-pound truck.
“I knew right away that I had made the right decision to come to here, my experience was absolutely amazing,” explains Joe. “Steve was fantastic, he understood what my goals were and what I needed to do to get there. He didn’t just put me through exercises for the sake of it, he viewed himself as more than just a physical therapist, he was a problem solver and came up with a solution that was just right for me. We adjusted as went, and Steve explained everything so well.”
Upon doing his initial examination, Dr. Linton was looking at Joe’s overall function and movement.
“X-rays only look at a bone,” explains Dr. Linton. “Physical therapy is asking why was the large motion causing the problem when Joe was obviously strong enough to handle it? We needed to see the overall picture and look at what movements Joe wanted to do, assess his core strength, and ask what else was affected by the issue. By looking at the overall situation and not just the joint in question, we were able to identify the problem.”
Joe LoStracco is shown pulling and lifting Dr. Stephen Linton as they work on strengthening Joe’s shoulder after a labral tear.
Upon being discharged, Joe had surpassed the level he was at prior to his shoulder injury / labral tear and he attributes much of that to his time spent in physical therapy. By working with Dr. Linton and learning specifically how his body was functioning, Joe was able to focus on areas that he didn’t realize were lacking and was taught how to properly warm-up, which he says made a huge difference. By learning the right way to perform each movement and how to recruit the proper muscles to stabilize the shoulder while doing those movements, Joe was able to increase his range of motion and decrease his levels of pain.
While currently competing a few times each year, Joe has his sights set on going to Nationals for the first time, where a top 10 finish could open the doors to going pro or competing internationally. At only 25 years of age, Joe is healthy and feels great so competing for years to come is a realistic goal.
“Joe is incredibly strong, which goes to show that anyone can have issues with weakness and stability,” said Dr. Linton. “But, everything he did was so dynamic, we were always pushing it to the next level. Joe rehabbed very quickly for someone of his size and that just shows the level of dedication that he had, both inside and outside the clinic.”
Even though the therapy sessions have ended, Dr. Linton has left the lines of communication open so Joe can reach out with any questions he may have. After all, having a physical therapist in his back pocket, leaves Joe feeling like he has a slight advantage over other competitors in his field.
Joe’s hard work, dedication, and the relationship that developed between he and Dr. Linton are a testament to why we do what we do. Helping others achieve their goals is an incredibly rewarding experience.
About Ivy Rehab & Dr. Stephen Linton
Dr. Stephen Linton specializes in sports rehab and has advanced certifications in vestibular therapy, concussion rehab, and blood flow restriction. The Blue Bell clinic prides itself on challenging each patient to reach their goals through hands-on techniques that will strengthen patients and get them back to doing the activities they love. To schedule an appointment, click here.