Shoulder pain is a common and difficult problem in competitive swimmers due to cumulative loads from repetitive overhead motion. Capsular laxity has been implicated as a potential etiology for shoulder pain in competitive swimmers. No study has examined the role of capsular plication in addressing recurrent shoulder pain in competitive swimmers. The purpose of this study is to retrospectively describe our series of competitive swimmers treated with arthroscopic capsular plication with a primary outcome of return to competitive swimming. Eighteen shoulders in 15 patients underwent arthroscopic capsular plication from 2003 to 2007. Patients were contacted at an average follow-up of 29 months (range, 8–42) and a swimming history, American Shoulder and Elbow (ASES) scores, and L'Insalata scores were obtained. At time of surgery, all patients demonstrated laxity under examination under anesthesia. All patients had a positive drive-through sign. Eighty percent (12/15) of patients returned to competitive swimming although only 20% (3/15) were able to return to their pre-injury training regimen volume. All patients subjectively reported improved pain after surgery. The average ASES score was 78 ± 16 (average, standard deviation). The average L'Insalata score was 82 ± 11. Although our results demonstrate that arthroscopic capsular plication has utility in the treatment of shoulder pain in swimmers who have failed non-operative treatment, the inability of some athletes to return to pre-injury training volume illustrates the difficult nature of shoulder pain in swimmers.
Level of Evidence: Retrospective case series, Level IV