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Rotator cuff repair allows older athletes to return to sport

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Older athletes are usually able to return to sport after surgical repair of rotator cuff tear, according to a new study.

Researchers in Colorado found that arthroscopic repair of the shoulder injury in recreational athletes over 70 years of age was successful a majority of the time.

Their findings were presented the recent annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM).

“Seventy-seven percent of our patients who had an arthroscopic repair of a full thickness rotator cuff tear were able to return to their sport at a similar level of intensity,” said lead author Dr. Peter Millett from the Steadman Philippon Research Institute in Vail, Colorado.

The research team set out to evaluate clinical outcomes after arthroscopic repair of full-thickness rotator cuff tears in older athletes. They recruited 49 patients — 33 men and 11 women — with a mean age of 73 years. All postoperative measures evaluating the patients´ progress showed significant improvements compared to before the surgery.

Patients who modified their recreational activities due to postoperative weakness were significantly less satisfied, the researchers noted.

In all, 24 of 31 patients (77%) who responded were able to return to their sport at a similar level of intensity.

The authors concluded that arthroscopic rotator cuff repair was highly effective at reducing pain, improving function and returning older athletes to sport.

“Patients over 70 are typically not treated operatively for rotator cuff issues, but these results highlight that there might be significant reason to assess and treat a tear arthroscopically,” Dr. Millett said.