Arthroscopic shoulder surgery in female professional tennis players: Ability and timing to return to play

Simon W. Young, Marc R. Safran, Jodie Dakic, Michael L. Nguyen, Kathleen Stroia

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Recent publications have highlighted the relatively poor outcome of other overhead athletes, particularly baseball players, with regard to return to sports at the same or higher level after shoulder surgery. However, true assessment of their ability when returning to sport is not as clear. Further, ability to return to other overhead sports has not been reported. Our objective was to assess outcome and time to return to previous level of function following shoulder surgery in professional tennis players. Methods: The records of all female tennis players on the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) professional circuit between January 2008 and June 2010 were reviewed to identify players who underwent shoulder surgery on their dominant (serving) shoulder. Details of the surgery including date, procedures performed, and complications were recorded. The primary outcomes were ability and time to return to professional play, and if they were able to return to their previous level of function, as determined by singles ranking. Pre and post-operative singles rankings were used to determine rate and completeness of return to preoperative function. Their highest ranking pre-injury, post operatively, and the time to return to pre-injury ranking were evaluated. Results: During the study period eight professional women tennis players from the WTA underwent shoulder surgery on their dominant arm. All surgery was performed arthroscopically, 7 out of 8 players had more than one procedure performed during the surgery. In total, 3 players underwent debridement of a partial rotator cuff tear and 2 players underwent repair of a complete supraspinatus tear. Three players had an anterior labral repair or reconstruction for anterior instability, and one player underwent repair of a SLAP lesion. Two players underwent neurolysis of a suprascapular nerve, and three players in total underwent a subacromial decompression. All players (100%) returned to professional play. The mean time to return to play was 6.7 months after surgery. However, only 25% (2 out of 8) players had achieved their pre-injury singles rank or better by 18 months post operatively. In total, three players returned to their pre-injury singles ranking, with their peak singles ranking being attained at a mean of 2.5 years post operatively. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that in professional female tennis players, a high return to play rate following arthroscopic shoulder surgery is also associated with a prolonged and often incomplete return to previous level of performance. Thus, counselling the patient to this fact is important to manage their expectations.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4 suppl
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013
Externally publishedYes

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