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Surgery for first-time shoulder dislocation lowers re-injury risk

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Treating first-time shoulder dislocations with surgery can benefit young athletes, according to research presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine´s recent annual meeting in Colorado Springs.

Researchers found that surgery after a first-time shoulder dislocation lowered the risk of re-injury and the need for follow-up surgery when compared to those who were initially treated non-operatively and experienced a repeat dislocation prior to surgery.

“Deciding between a non-operative programme or going forward with surgery can be a challenging decision for medical professionals treating shoulder injuries in young athletes,” said the study´s lead author Dr Tyler J. Marshall, from Alabama Ortho Spine and Sports in Birmingham, Alabama. “However, this study shows a substantial benefit for athletes undergoing surgery to prevent recurrent instability down the road.”

The study examined 121 patients at an average of 51 months (just over four years) post-surgery. Of this group, 68 patients had experienced their first dislocation, while 53 had recurrent dislocations after being initially treated non-operatively. Patient ages ranged from 16 to 30 years old and the average age was 19.

Reporting on the findings, the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine said that after treatment with an arthroscopic bankart repair, the postoperative dislocation rate in the first-time injury group was 29%, compared to 62% in those who did not have surgery after their initial injury.

“While young athletes and parents may be wary of surgery, our study shows the advantages of this treatment approach,” Marshall said. “Physicians should counsel those with first-time injuries on these benefits moving forward.”