Background: Rotator cuff tears are rare injuries in adolescents but cause significant morbidity if unrecognized. Previous literature on rotator cuff repairs in adolescents is limited to small case series, with few data to guide treatment.
Hypothesis: Adolescent patients would have excellent functional outcome scores and return to the same level of sports participation after rotator cuff repair but would have some difficulty with returning to overhead sports.
Study design: Case series; Level of evidence 4.
Methods: A retrospective search of the practice's billing records identified all patients participating in at least 1 sport who underwent rotator cuff repair between 2006 and 2014 with an age <18 years at the time of surgery and a minimum follow-up of 2 years. Clinical records were evaluated for demographic information, and telephone follow-up was obtained regarding return to play, performance, other surgery and complications, a numeric pain rating scale (0-10) for current shoulder pain, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons (ASES) Shoulder Assessment Form, and the Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index.
Results: Thirty-two consecutive adolescent athletes (28 boys and 4 girls) with a mean age of 16.1 years (range, 13.2-17.9 years) met inclusion criteria. Twenty-nine patients (91%) had a traumatic event, and 27 of these patients (93%) had no symptoms before the trauma. The most common single tendon injury was to the supraspinatus (21 patients, 66%), of which 2 were complete tendon tears, 1 was a bony avulsion of the tendon, and 18 were high-grade partial tears. Fourteen patients (56%) underwent single-row repair of their rotator cuff tear, and 11 (44%) underwent double-row repair. All subscapularis injuries were repaired in open fashion, while all other tears were repaired arthroscopically. Twenty-seven patients (84%) completed the outcome questionnaires at a mean 6.2 years after surgery (range, 2-10 years). The mean ASES score was 93 (range, 65-100; SD = 9); mean Western Ontario Rotator Cuff Index, 89% (range, 60%-100%; SD = 13%); and mean numeric pain rating, 0.3 (range, 0-3; SD = 0.8). Overall, 25 patients (93%) returned to the same level of play or higher. Among overhead athletes, 13 (93%) were able to return to the same level of play, but 8 (57%) were forced to change positions. There were no surgical complications, but 2 patients did undergo a subsequent operation.
Conclusion: Surgical repair of high-grade partial-thickness and complete rotator cuff tears yielded successful outcomes among adolescents, with excellent functional outcomes at midterm follow-up. However, overhead athletes may have difficulty playing the same position after surgery.
Keywords: outcomes; rotator cuff; shoulder; sports; young athlete.