Background: To compare the effect of different starting periods of rehabilitative exercise (early or delayed passive exercise) on the rate of retear and other clinical outcomes after the arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff. Methods: In total, 103 patients who underwent arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff were included in the study. Determined at 2 weeks post-operation, patients who were incapable of passive forward elevation greater than
were allotted to the early exercise group (group I: 79 patients; 42 males, 37 females), whilst those capable were allotted to the delayed exercise group (group II: 24 patients; 14 males, 10 females). The group I started passive exercise, i.e. stretching, within 2 weeks of operation, whilst group II started within 6 weeks. The results were compared on average 15.8 months (11-49 months) post-operation using the passive range of motion, the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) pain score, and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and Constant scores. Stiffness was defined as passive forward elevation or external rotation of less than
compared to the contralateral side. Follow-up magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was carried out on average 1 year post-operation and the rate of retear was compared with Sugaya's criteria. Results: There were no differences between the two groups in gender, age, smoking, presence of diabetes, arm dominance, period of tear unattended, pre-operative range of motion, shape and size of tear, degree of tendon retraction, and tendon quality. There were no significant differences in clinical outcomes. Whilst stiffness was more frequent in group II (p-value 0.03), retear was more frequent in group I (p-value 0.028) according to the MRI follow-up. Conclusions: During rehabilitation after the arthroscopic repair of the rotator cuff, the delay of passive exercise seems to decrease the rate of retear but increase the risk of stiffness.