FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Rookie midfielder Stephen McCarthy first injured his left shoulder in the first half of a meeting with the San Jose Earthquakes back on May 21.
Although it was undoubtedly a painful injury – specifically a subluxation of the shoulder, which refers to a partial or temporary dislocation – it proved more an annoyance than anything else as McCarthy proceeded to play the full 90 minutes at Buck Shaw Stadium and ultimately missed no time because of the ailment.
But when he suffered the same injury during a reserve game exactly one month later on June 21, it became a frustration, as McCarthy missed a pair of regular-season matches. When it happened yet again at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on July 30, it was disheartening. And when it happened a fourth time during a training session on Sept. 4, it was time for action.
“If you do it enough, you can really do some bad damage,” said McCarthy, who underwent season-ending surgery to repair the problem in his shoulder on Sept. 12. “I think it was getting to that point and both [myself and the medical staff] said, ‘I think it’s time.’”
The surgery meant an abrupt and premature end to McCarthy’s promising rookie season in which the former Santa Clara University and University of North Carolina standout carved out a place in the Revolution’s starting lineup from the season opener. Often playing alongside Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber in central midfield, McCarthy made 21 appearances (including 18 starts) and scored a pair of crucial goals against the Portland Timbers and D.C. United.
Despite the discouraging method in which his first professional season came to a close and the constant stop-start manner in which his campaign unfolded, McCarthy is able to reflect on the experience with positivity.
“I wonder what would’ve happened had I not taken that one fall,” McCarthy admitted. “But I was just blessed to get any time at all and I was happy just getting to play this season as a rookie.
“I think I had some ups and downs,” he added. “I would start to make progress and then my shoulder would pop or come out and then I would just be back at square one. So it was pretty frustrating. But still, looking back, I’m very happy that I had the opportunities that I did to play.”
In truth, Revolution fans may not have seen the best of McCarthy, at least not in the months following the initial injury. The 23-year-old admits it was difficult to approach the game with the proper intensity with the potential for another shoulder injury persistently in the back of his mind.
“You wouldn’t really think a shoulder (injury) would take you down that much in soccer, but I would constantly be thinking about it,” McCarthy said. “I felt like I would not be able to play the way that I knew I could, so it was pretty frustrating. Then I would rehab, it would be back to almost feeling good, I’d be playing alright, then bam, it would happen again.”
With the surgery – an arthroscopic labrum repair – a success, the hope is that it won’t be happening again. McCarthy hasn’t been able to work too much on strengthening his shoulder in the first month following the procedure, but the rehabilitation process should begin increasing its intensity in the coming weeks.
All told, the recovery is expected to take approximately three to four months, which should put McCarthy on track to be ready for the start of the 2012 preseason. It’s a prospect which has the midfielder overflowing with anticipation.
“[The rehabilitation] has been a pretty slow process for me, just because you kind of have to let all the stuff just tighten up in the shoulder, and it’s better for it,” McCarthy said. “So really I haven’t done too much, but in the next week or two, I’m really going to start stepping it up. It feels great so far.
“I’m just excited to start playing,” he concluded. “I still have a few weeks before I can play, but I’m excited to just get back into it. I can’t wait for next season.”