Serious shoulder injuries in professional soccer: return to participation after surgery

  • Hart D
  • Funk L
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PURPOSE: An evidence base for the management and prevention of shoulder injuries in soccer is lacking. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the type, mechanism and recovery time after surgery associated with serious shoulder injuries sustained in professional soccer to build an evidence base foundation.

METHODS: Fifty-two professional soccer players underwent shoulder surgery for injuries sustained during match play. Of these, 25 fulfilled the inclusion criteria. Data were collected for injury mechanism and type; clinical, radiological and surgical findings and procedures; and return to full participation. Subjects were all managed by the same surgeon.

RESULTS: Labral injuries represented the most common injury type affecting 21 (84 %) subjects; two rotator cuff (8 %) and two combined labral/rotator cuff (8 %) injuries were less common. Fourteen (56 %) subjects sustained a high-energy trauma injury in a combined abduction and external rotation position. Six (24 %) subjects sustained a low-energy trauma mechanism in variable positions, while five (20 %) had a gradual onset of symptoms. Twenty-two (88 %) subjects reported a dislocation as a feature of their presentation. All of the subjects with high- and low-energy trauma mechanisms reported a dislocation occurring at the time of injury. Eight (32 %) subjects had sustained a previous significant shoulder injury to the ipsilateral side. Goalkeepers did not sustain low-energy trauma injuries. Outfield players returned to full participation in a mean time of 11.6 weeks, while goalkeepers did so in 11.1 weeks post-surgery. Return to participation time ranged from 7 to 24 weeks with a median of 11 weeks.

CONCLUSION: Professional soccer players can expect a return to participation within 12 weeks post-surgery. The majority of serious shoulder injuries in soccer occur at a positional extreme of external rotation and abduction in high-energy situations, while a significant number occur in low-energy situations away from this position. Most serious shoulder injuries in professional soccer are dislocations. Previous shoulder injury is considered a risk factor.


Author-supplied keywords

  • Football
  • Injury
  • Rehabilitation
  • Shoulder
  • Soccer
  • Surgery

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