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From pain to gain: Gift to let USC explore how physical therapy helps torn rotator cuffs

Barbara Fried’s donation of $463,000 will further the research that helped her recover from a painful shoulder injury

Barbara Fried
Benefactor Barbara Fried (Photo/Robert Radifera)

Barbara Fried still remembers the time she tore her rotator cuff. The pain was excruciating.

It was 2000; she and husband Mark were vacationing in the Galápagos Islands. While the two were sailing through particularly rough seas, a banister slammed into Barbara’s shoulder, leaving her doubled over in agony.

After the complete tear to her rotator cuff, the then-64-year-old woman went through two surgeries to improve her shoulder’s range of motion. The procedures failed.

“Part of the problem, I think, with the first and second operation was the concept of physical therapy is just totally wrong,” Fried said. “They want you to start using your shoulder as soon as possible and have a ‘no pain, no gain’ kind of attitude.”

Eventually she turned to David Luedeka for help. The physical therapist and Lori Michener, professor of clinical physical therapy at the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, have a different approach to physical therapy for patients with injured rotator cuss: a phased, 18-month strengthening program using movements that improve joint stability and decrease stress on the rotator cuff.

Before, I couldn’t lift an arm, I couldn’t do anything. But this program brought me back to life.

Barbara Fried

“Before, I couldn’t lift an arm, I couldn’t do anything,” said Fried, who began seeing Luedeka at age 74. “But this program brought me back to life.”

Fried’s physical therapy success story led her to donate $463,000 to fund a two-year grant for Michener’s continued research on a pilot study for implementing the closed-chain stabilization approach for treating rotator cuff tears. The research will take place in the Clinical Biomechanics Orthopedics and Sports Outcome Research lab, of which Michener is the director.

Benefit of treatment

“I’d like other people to have the benefit of this kind of treatment because I think Lori and David can demonstrate that this is the way physical therapy should be, not just checking off boxes in a book,” Fried said.

Fried is the president of Fried Companies, a real estate company that develops residential communities, office complexes and shopping centers in Virginia. Fried and her late husband, Mark, have a long history of generosity, having given money and time to making education, housing and dentistry more accessible and affordable, and helping individuals with developmental disabilities.

Helping others

The couple was among the founders of Innisfree Village, a voluntary life-sharing community for adults with intellectual disabilities in Crozet, Va., at which their 53-year-old son Jonathan lives. He will compete in the Special Olympics in Los Angeles later this month.

My mother instilled in me the idea that whatever little you had, you shared.

Barbara Fried

“From the time I was a child, my mother instilled in me the idea that whatever little you had, you shared,” Fried said. “I think the trend today is not just to give generally but to pinpoint areas where you think you can make a difference, and I think this study can make a big difference.”

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From pain to gain: Gift to let USC explore how physical therapy helps torn rotator cuffs

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