Throwback: Palermo scheduled to undergo season-ending surgery

Robson Palermo will be back on the Built Ford Tough Series in January. Photo by Andy Watson /


  • In a series of “throwback” stories being posted each Thursday between now and the end of the calendar year, will look back at some of the key moments from throughout this year’s historical season.
  • Robson Palermo underwent season-ending surgery to both his left and right shoulders in March.
  • Palermo had been dealing with shoulder injuries since August 2011. Despite the injuries – the most serious of which is to the left rotator cuff – he managed to become the first rider in PBR history to win the World Finals event in back-to-back seasons.
  • Palermo is expected to return to competition at the start of the 2014 Built Ford Tough Series.

In This Article

Not only was the past season significant in the fact that the PBR celebrated its 20 anniversary, but the Built Ford Tough Series was also memorable in its own right for how it played out over the past 10 months.

In a series of “throwback” stories being posted each Thursday between now and the end of the calendar year, will look back at some of the key moments from throughout this year’s historical season.

The first in the series is the announcement that Robson Palermo would undergo season-ending surgery.

As the story indicates, the decision was a difficult one for Palermo, who in two previous seasons had won back-to-back World Finals event titles despite both rotator cuffs being torn and a biceps injury on his left riding arm. However, this decision was ultimately about being capable of winning a world title. For however much longer Palermo competes it’s not merely about money or winning events, it’s about the goal of one day being a World Champion.

No one can say how different things would have been had he labored on, but this coming January a healthy Palermo ― something he’s never truly been and something Ty Murray and others have said is the only thing that’s stood between Palermo and a World Championship ― will be in New York and 2014 could be the best opportunity he’s ever had to win the gold buckle he so dearly desires.

Here is that story as it appeared on on Wednesday, March 6, 2013:

FORT WORTH, Texas ― It's taken the better part of five months to arrive at his decision and even now it's not without trepidation that Robson Palermo has decided to undergo season-ending surgery.

Palermo, 29, will have his left shoulder operated on Tuesday in Gulf Breeze, Fla. The procedure will be performed by renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. Palermo will immediately begin his rehab with a weeklong program ― Athletes' Performance Florida ― at the Andrews Institute for Orthopedics & Sports Medicine followed by a 20-day recovery period in Brazil before returning to Andrews' facility six weeks later to have the right shoulder surgically repaired.

According to Palermo, he has been contemplating this option since before returning from Brazil earlier this year when his personal trainer Nivaldo Baldo recommended Andrews and introduced the two via e-mail.

Palermo, who drove nine hours from his home in Tyler, Texas, to Pensacola, on Sunday, met with Andrews on Monday.

He and his wife Priscila brought Palermo's complete medical file and the often-injured bull rider underwent several new tests before consulting with the famed surgeon for more than 45 minutes that afternoon.

"I went there and met him," Palermo said. "He's a nice guy. I like him. I feel so comfortable with this guy."

Palermo said that he and his wife had never heard of Andrews prior to Baldo mentioning him. According to Palermo, he and his wife researched the surgeon online and unsuccessfully tried to schedule an appointment earlier this year.

An assistant for Andrews eventually contacted the couple last month with an available opening on March 4. Palermo said he respects Dr. Tandy Freeman and is thankful for all he continues to do for the PBR riders, but wanted to seek out Andrews' opinion. .

At one point, Palermo said there were as many as five doctors, including Andrews, in the examining room consulting with him on various aspects of the procedures.

Palermo said he was informed he has a bone fracture and labrum tear in right shoulder and that a small piece of bone missing on the head of the humerus bone in the left shoulder, which is what causes that shoulder to repeatedly come out of place.

The shoulder has come of the joint several times in the past three months, including while he was sleeping.

Palermo said the doctors explained they will scope the right shoulder, but he's expecting the left surgery "to be a little bit aggressive." He said they will not be forced to make an incision.

Andrews gave Palermo and his wife time to contemplate their decision, but both feel it's in the best interest ― short term and long term ― to have it done now. Without having the procedure it's much more likely that Palermo would need to have his left shoulder replaced.

Palermo said, "He made me feel comfortable and I don't know if for everybody he (does) that, but he makes me feel really comfortable."

Andrews is arguably the most renowned orthopedic surgeon in his profession for knee, elbow, and shoulder injuries. For years he practiced in Birmingham, Ala., at the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center and recently opened the Florida facility.

He has performed surgeries on the likes of Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson and more recently Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffin III. Palermo said several professional football players were at the facility on Monday.

Jack Nicholas, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Brett Favre, John Smoltz, Charles Barkley, Roger Clemens and Rajon Rando are among his other celebrity athlete clientele.

Baldo, the director of the Physiosport Rehabilitation Center, in Campinas, Sao Paulo, Brazil, has known Andrews for several years. The two met when a professional soccer player, who trains with Baldo, traveled from Brazil up to Birmingham, Ala., to have Andrews perform knee surgery.

Palermo admits he's apprehensive.

On Sunday, while traveling to Florida, he called Ty Murray to confer with the nine-time World Champion as both a mentor and close friend. Palermo said the two spoke for nearly an hour and that Murray talked him through the process he underwent during his career.

Murray, who had both shoulders and both knees reconstructed prior to winning his seventh all-around world title, said he had a feeling Palermo "was still on the fence" about whether to continue competing with his current injuries.

Palermo originally injured his left shoulder late in the 2011 season when it was discovered he had a complete tear of the rotator cuff. He not only finished the season, but managed to win the World Finals event despite competing with injury to the shoulder of his riding hand. He immediately underwent surgery within three days and missed the first 10 Built Ford Tough Series events of the 2012 season.

He then returned to competition and suffered a right shoulder injury during the summer at an event in Calgary, Canada. He again continued competing and again managed to win the World Finals events, which was the first time in PBR history a rider has won the season-ending event in back-to-back years.

In spite of his success, Palermo said, "(Murray) told me to fix my shoulders, take one year and come back strong."

"I didn't think he should keep going," said Murray, who likened it trying to finish a NASCAR race with bald tires and an empty gas tank.

While Murray said he thought Palermo could indeed continue to win Built Ford Tough Series events and earn money "here and there," he did not have the same faith in seeing him win an elusive world title. Palermo admitted that at this point in his career ― "I'm going to be 30 years old and I don't have much to go" ― he wants an opportunity to contend for the gold buckle.

"I came over here to be a World Champion," he said. "I won the (World) Finals three times, but not a World Champion yet. I want to be the guy. I want to stay in the top, but for that I need to give up one year and fix my shoulder, fix everything."

Palermo indicated that once he's recovered from both surgeries, he intends to train with Jesse Marquez.

The California-based trainer is responsible for resurrecting Murray's career.

Murray called Palermo a "world-class athlete" and said he's "not in bad shape," however, he went to describe him as muscular and bulky.

"He's not built right," said Murray, who explained to Palermo that he now has nine months to get leaner, faster and more flexible.

Palermo said, "I want to feel the way Ty told me."

Murray said he told Palermo that if he underwent the procedure now, "I have all the faith in the world in you," but that if he tried to labor through the season he'd eventually come to the same conclusion and by then it would drag into next season.

By making the decision now he could be ready to return to competition 100 percent healthy at the start of the 2014 season.

"I was kind of scared because I don't know what I'd do," Palermo said. "Every time I go to the bull riding I didn't know if my shoulder was going to come out or is it going to stay. Every time I get on I was a little bit scared if my shoulder was going to hold there.

"For a bull rider this is not good because you (have) to think too much. You think about the shoulder, you (have) to think about riding your bull and you have to think about the way you jump off the bull and, so yesterday there ― Monday morning ― I made my decision.

"I said, 'Well, let's go fix this.'"

Palermo said he has the full support of his agency ― Prodigal Sports ― and his sponsors (Lincoln Welders/Electric, Monster Energy, ATX Wheel Pro's, Wrangler and Preifert, which he said helps to ease some of his concerns. He also indicated that several fellow riders ― Silvano Alves, Guilherme Marchi, Renato Nunes, Valdiron de Oliveira, Agnaldo Cardozo and Ben Jones ― are coming out to his Tyler ranch on Wednesday "for support."

He said Alves, Marchi, Oliveira and Jones are planning to ride practice bulls and joked that for the time being he'll do his best to imitate Jeff Robinson and serve as the practice pen contractor.

"I'm going to try and buck some guys off," he said, laughing.

Palermo acknowledged it'll be hard to stay home ― "I don't like it. It's a pain in the (butt)" ― and not compete. Like most professionals, it's hard to watch their friends and fellow riders ― either at an event or on television ― but he'll use this time to get in the best shape of his career.

This was a decision made with long range goals in mind.

Last year, he returned to competition four months after surgery as opposed to the six it was estimated. This time, he said, he's going to follow Andrews advice.

"It's going to be hard for me," said Palermo, who has never been away from competing for this length of time, "but, I think, it's going to be OK for my career."

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.

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