Treating First Time Shoulder Dislocations with Surgery Can Benefit Young Athletes

    Shoulder instability is most common in the young, athletic population, bringing a focus to how these injuries can be best treated.

    Research from Alabama Ortho Spine and Sports in Birmingham presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s recent Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, demonstrated that surgery after a first-time shoulder dislocation lowered the risk of re-injury and the need for follow-up surgery when compared with those who were initially treated non-operatively and experienced a repeat dislocation prior to surgery.

    The study included 121 patients with an average follow-up of 51 months after surgery. Of this group, 68 patients had experienced their first dislocation, while 53 had recurrent dislocations after being initially treated non-operatively.

    After treatment with an arthroscopic Bankart repair, the postoperative dislocation rate in the first-time injury group was 29%, compared with 62% in those who did not have surgery after their initial injury. The average age of patients was 19 years old.

    “Deciding between a non-operative program or going forward with surgery can be a challenging decision for medical professionals treating shoulder injuries in young athletes,” said lead author Tyler J. Marshall, MD.

    “However, this study shows a substantial benefit for athletes undergoing surgery to prevent recurrent instability down the road.”

    The research data were collected between 2003 and 2013 from 8 fellowship-trained surgical practices, with patient ages ranging from 16 to 30 years old. Surveys given to patients during follow-up visits asked for information such as test for shoulder functionality, whether patients returned to sport, postoperative instability events, and whether further surgery was required on the shoulder.

    “While young athletes and parents may be wary of surgery, our study shows the advantages of this treatment approach,” Dr. Marshall said.

    “Physicians should counsel those with first time injuries on these benefits moving forward.”