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Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Repair in Elite Rugby Players

Authors: A Tambe, R Badge, L Funk

References: International Journal of Shoulder Surgery, 2009

Rugby is an increasingly popular collision sport. A wide spectrums of injuries are sustained during training and match play. Rotator cuff injury is uncommon in contact sports and there is little published literature on rotator cuff tear treatment in rugby.

We therefore reviewed the results and functional outcomes of arthroscopic rotator cuff repair in elite rugby players. 
Eleven professional rugby players underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair over a two year period. Data was collected from the operative records and patients recalled for outcome scoring and ultrasound scans.

There were 7 Rugby league and 4 rugby union players, including 6 internationals. The mean age was 25.7 years. All had a traumatic episode during match-play. None were able to return to rugby after the injury.
The mean time to surgery was 5 weeks. The mean width of the cuff tear was 1.8 cm. All were full thickness cuff tears. Associated injuries included two Bankart lesions, one bony Bankart, one posterior Labral tear and two 360 degree Labral tears. The biceps was involved in three cases. Two were debrided and a tenodesis performed in one. Repair was with suture anchors and a supervised accelerated rehabilitation programme undertaken.

The mean final follow-up was 18 months (6-31). Constant scores improved from 44 preoperatively to 99. The mean score at three months was 95. Oxford shoulder score improved from 34 to 12, with a three month score of 18. The mean time of return to full match play at their previous level was 4.8 months. There were no complications and postoperative scans in nine patients confirmed the repairs to have healed.

Full thickness rotator cuff tears in the contact athlete can be addressed successfully by arthroscopic repair, with a rapid return to pre-injury status.

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