Shoulder injury patterns requiring surgery in professional rugby players

Authors: L Funk, M Canagasaby, M Snow, R Sandher

References: FIMS 2006

Purpose: The shoulder is the second most frequently injured joint, after the knee, in rugby. Traditionally the rotator cuff was reported as being the most frequent site of injury. This has not been our personal experience.

Methodology: We retrospectively reviewed 43 professional rugby players presenting to a shoulder surgeon over a 28 month period. Operative and clinical data was analysed.

Results: 20 (47%) of the players had labral tears, with only 3 of them (15%) having sustained shoulder dislocations. The others all had significant injuries and pain, with no dislocation or instability.

52% of the operative procedures were for labral injuries, 24% were for acromioclavicular joint pathology. The rest being for rotator cuff tears, acromioclavicular joint dislocations and subacromial impingement.

Patient satisfaction post-operatively improved by a mean of 83%. Players undergoing SLAP repairs returned to rugby in a mean of 2.6 months post-repair. Those undergoing anterior, posterior or combined labral repairs returned at a mean of 4.5 months. Those undergoing arthroscopic acromioclavicular joint excision returned in a mean of 4.6 weeks after surgery.

Conclusions: The most common shoulder injury, requiring surgery, sustained by rugby players is a labral tear, followed by acromioclavicular joint pathology. Surgical treatment has good results, returning players to their sport at high level soon after surgery.


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