Question:I'm thinking about having joint resurfacing done to my pitching arm. The doc says my activities may have to be curtailed. What can and can't I do after this surgery?
Answer:Joint resurfacing has become an increasingly popular treatment alternative to a total shoulder replacement (TSR). Today, athletes continue to train and participate in sports well past their 20s. Severe arthritis of the hip, knee, or shoulder can lead to a decline in play.
Joint resurfacing of the hip and shoulder are now possible. Instead of replacing the entire joint, the surface is smoothed and a metal cap put over it. This makes it possible for the athlete to continue playing. A TSR can be done later if there are problems with the resurfacing.
TSRs don't last a lifetime, so the joint resurfacing procedure buys some time and helps maintain function in the process. But it's not clear how long the joint resurfacing implant will last or what level of activity it can handle.
There are no specific activity dos and don'ts for patients or athletes with shoulder joint resurfacing. So far, studies do not show any problems with implant loosening or joint surface wear and tear in the short-term (one to two years). No one knows yet just how the implants hold up over the long haul.
Most surgeons advise their patients with joint resurfacing to avoid contact or collision sports. The concern is for bone fracture around the implant. Many patients automatically reduce their activity level for fear of implant failure.
Until more information is available, each athlete must make his or her own decisions with guidance from the surgeon. Overall health, strength, conditioning, and type of sport may be factors to consider. Regular follow-up with X-ray exam is recommended until further guidelines are published.David S. Bailie, MD, et al. Cementless Humeral Resurfacing Arthroplasty in Active Patients Less Than Fifty-five Years of Age. In Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. January 2008. Vol. 90. No. 1. Pp. 110-117.
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