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Shoulder Reconstruction

The aims of a shoulder reconstruction operation are to stabilise the shoulder and prevent it from re-dislocating.

Often it is performed as an end-of-season procedure in football players. The minimum recovery period is 5-6 months.

There are a range of shoulder slings that may assist after shoulder reconstructions. The ProCare Shoulder Immobilizer is used in hospitals across Australia and the DonJoy UltraSling III is often used by our elite athletes.

When is a shoulder reconstructed needed?

A shoulder reconstruction may be indicated for recurrent episodes of instability during a sporting activity. It may also be indicated if episodes of instability start to occur during activities of daily living such as dressing, undressing and sleeping. Although a shoulder which frequently dislocates may be easily relocated, it can lead to permanent damage with each episode of instability.

Should a professional athlete have a shoulder reconstruction after a single dislocation?

This is a highly debated issue amongst sports medicine practitioners. Although a shoulder reconstruction can arguably reduce the likelihood of future re-dislocations, there are also risks associated with any surgical procedure (bleeding, infection, repair rupture and general anaesthetic risks). Each athlete's situation is unique and there are factors which must be considered in each circumstance including underlying joint damage, time of season, position on the field and nature of the sport.

Should a shoulder reconstruction be performed with an open or arthroscopic technique?

Both surgical techniques can lead to a good results if they are done by expert surgeons who perform these procedures on a regular basis. It also depends on the severity of the injury and whether it is the first or subsequent shoulder subluxation. Each shoulder injury is unique and it is an issue that requires discussion between the athlete and surgeon.
Corey McKernan Shoulder Dislocation
Corey McKernan of North Melbourne dislocates his shoulder in the 1997 Preliminary Final against St Kilda.
(Image sourced from Channel Seven)
Corey McKernan Shoulder Dislocation
Corey McKernan of North Melbourne escorted off field after dislocating his shoulder in the 1997 Preliminary Final against St Kilda.
(Image sourced from Channel Seven)