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Sports Health. 2013 Jul;5(4):367-76. doi: 10.1177/1941738113482673.

Return to sport following shoulder surgery in the elite pitcher: a systematic review.

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Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush Medical College of Rush University, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois.



The ability to return to elite pitching, performance, and clinical outcomes of shoulder surgery in elite baseball pitchers are not definitively established.


To determine (1) the rate of return to sport (RTS) in elite pitchers following shoulder surgery, (2) postoperative clinical outcomes upon RTS, and (3) performance upon RTS and to compare RTS rates in different types of shoulder surgery.


Using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines and checklist, Medline, SciVerse Scopus, SportDiscus, and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were searched.


Levels I-IV evidence were eligible for inclusion if performance-based (eg, RTS) and/or clinical outcome-based reporting of outcomes were reported following surgical treatment of shoulder pathology in elite pitchers (major or minor league or collegiate).


Subject, shoulder, and pre- and postoperative performance-based variables of interest were extracted. All shoulder surgery types were potentially inclusive (eg, open, arthroscopic, rotator cuff, labrum, biceps, acromioclavicular joint, fracture). Study methodological quality was analyzed using the Modified Coleman Methodology Score (MCMS).


Six studies were analyzed (287 elite male pitchers [mean age, 27 years] who underwent shoulder surgery, with 99% on the dominant, throwing shoulder). MCMS was 38 (poor). Most pitchers were professional, with a mean career length of 6.58 years and postoperative clinical follow-up of 3.62 years. In 5 of 6 studies, multiple diagnoses were addressed concomitantly at surgery. Rate of RTS was 68% at mean 12 months following surgery. Twenty-two percent of Major League Baseball (MLB) pitchers never RTS in MLB. Overall performance did improve following surgery; however, this did not improve to pre-injury levels.


In this systematic review, the rate of return to elite baseball pitching following surgery was established. Performance tended to decrease prior to surgery and gradually improve postoperatively, though not reaching pre-injury levels of pitching.


IV (systematic review of studies level I-IV evidence), therapeutic.


Major League Baseball; arthroscopy; pitcher; shoulder; surgery

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