It’s not game over: study finds that majority of shoulder replacement patients return to sports

Shoulder replacement surgery is often considered as a last resort for severe shoulder injuries. However, a new study has shown that the majority of shoulder replacement patients under the age of 55, find they can return to sports, often in as little as seven months.

This proves promising for recreational athletes who worry they’ll never be able to play sports again after the surgery. So, what does shoulder replacement involve and which sports will patients still be able to partake in after the surgery?

Understanding shoulder replacements

A lot like hip and knee replacements, a shoulder replacement involves replacing the damaged components with artificial ones, or more commonly referred to as a prosthesis.

Younger athletes can develop early osteoarthritis due to the repetitive motions performed in various sports. Once the joint develops arthritis, a total shoulder replacement is often required. This involves removing the joint surfaces, and then replacing them with a metal ball which has been highly-polished, that is then attached via a stem, along with a plastic socket.

Once healed, the prosthesis should allow the patient to move the shoulder freely and painlessly; allowing them to get back to the tasks they were unable to perform prior to the surgery. Of course, the results and success of the replacement vary between patients.

However, the study which was published in the World Journal of Orthopaedics, showed in patients under the age of 55, return to sport after shoulder replacement wasn’t only possible, but probable.

Which sports can shoulder replacement patients go back to?

One thing that is worth noting, is that there are limits as to which sports a shoulder replacement patient can go back to. The study questioned 61 patients, and found over 90% were able to return to a high demand sport.

return to sport after shoulder replacementThe exact sports patients returned to included:

  • Fitness sports – 97.2% of patients went back to fitness-related sports
  • Golf – 93.3% of patients went back to playing golf
  • Tennis and swimming – One of the more surprising statistics presented by the study, 87.5% of patients could return to both singles tennis and swimming
  • Basketball – 75% of patients found they could return to basketball
  • Flag football – 66.7% of patients returned to flag football

You’ll notice none of the above sports are contact sports. You may find you cannot return to sports such as rugby, for example, once you’ve undergone a total shoulder replacement.

Why are the results of the study important?

The reason why this study is important to shoulder specialists and young athletes is because it shows a shoulder replacement could be a viable choice for young patients suffering from early osteoarthritis.

It proves the treatment doesn’t eliminate the chances of a return to sport after shoulder replacement. Overall, as with any type of shoulder injury, it is important to seek treatment if you’re experiencing any pain as early as possible. This reduces the risk of the problem getting worse and provides a much more optimistic outcome.