Purpose of Review
This review presents epidemiology, etiology, management, and surgical outcomes of rotator cuff injuries in tennis players.
Rotator cuff injuries in tennis players are usually progressive overuse injuries ranging from partial-thickness articular- or bursal-sided tears to full-thickness tears. Most injuries are partial-thickness articular-sided tears, while full-thickness tears tend to occur in older-aged players. The serve is the most energy-demanding motion in the sport, and it accounts for 45 to 60% of all strokes performed in a tennis match, putting the shoulder at increased risk of overuse injury and rotator cuff tears. Studies have shown deficits in shoulder range of motion and scapular dyskinesia to occur even acutely after a tennis match. First-line treatment for rotator cuff injuries in any overhead athlete consists of conservative non-operative management with appropriate rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, followed by a specific rehabilitation program. Operative treatment is usually reserved for older-aged players and to those who fail to return to play after conservative measures. Surgical options include rotator cuff debridement with or without tendon repair, biceps tenodesis, and labral procedures. Unlike rotator cuff repairs in the general population, repairs in the elite tennis athlete have less than ideal rates of return to sport to the same level of performance.
Rotator cuff injuries are a common cause of pain and dysfunction in tennis players and other overhead athletes. The etiology of rotator cuff tears in tennis players is multifactorial and usually results from microtrauma and internal impingement in the younger athlete leading to partial tearing and degenerative full-thickness tears in older players. Surgical treatment is pursued in athletes who are still symptomatic despite an extensive course of non-operative treatment as outcomes with regard to returning to sport to the same pre-injury level are modest at best. Debridement alone is usually preferred over rotator cuff repairs for partial tears in younger players due to potential over-constraining of the shoulder joint and decreased rates of return to sport after rotator cuff repairs.
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Conflict of Interest
Rami G. Alrabaa and Mario H. Lobao declare that they have no conflict of interest.
William N. Levine reports American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons: Board or committee member. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Editorial or governing board. Zimmer: Unpaid consultant.
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Alrabaa, R.G., Lobao, M.H. & Levine, W.N. Rotator Cuff Injuries in Tennis Players. Curr Rev Musculoskelet Med 13, 734–747 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12178-020-09675-3