I put off shoulder surgery in order to compete in the 2010 Olympic games. That may have been a mistake that cost me. I didn't make it past the first preliminary rounds. The pain and loss of shoulder motion were just too big of a distraction. So, I'm scheduled now for an acromioplasty in two weeks. The question I have is -- how soon can I get back to practice? Even though the next games are four years away, I still compete in several sports for my college now.
Acromioplasty is the removal of the end of the acromion, the round end of a curved piece of bone that comes from the back of the scapula (shoulder blade) over the top of the shoulder. Some of the shoulder muscles of the rotator cuff pass under the acromion as they travel from the scapula to the humerus (upper arm bone). And for various reasons, the rotator cuff can get pinched there causing a painful problem called subacromial impingement syndrome. Subacromial just means under the acromion.
There are two different ways to perform this operation. One is with an open incision. The other is with arthroscopy, which eliminates opening up the skin and cutting through the muscles to get to the bone. Some surgeons think arthroscopic acromioplasty is a better way to go for several reasons.
First, they are able to avoid cutting through the deltoid muscle. Deltoid sparing techniques make it possible for the patient to start moving the arm right away after surgery. They can get into rehab without delay -- and for competitive athletes, that is a very important feature. For those who care, the incisions for arthroscopic surgery are much smaller and far less noticeable than the scar that results from the open incision.
So your return to practice and competitive participation may depend on how the acromioplasty is performed. You can ask your surgeon how he or she plans to do this procedure and the expected time to return-to-sports. Let your concerns and goals be known so that you can get a match between your desired outcomes and the surgeon's technique.
A. David Davis, MD, et al. Arthroscopic Versus Open Acromioplasty. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. March 2010. Vol. 38. No. 3. Pp. 613-618.
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