October 06, 2017
2 min read
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Baseball players see low return to play after biceps tenodesis for SLAP tears

Professional baseball players should be made aware of low return to play rates following biceps tenodesis, alternate SLAP tear treatments.

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Professional baseball players have a difficult time returning to play after biceps tenodesis for treatment of superior labral anterior-posterior tears, according to recently presented data.

“The take-home message of this study is that in professional baseball pitchers who undergo biceps tenodesis, return to play is unpredictable,” Peter N. Chalmers, MD, told Orthopedics Today.

Prospective database study

Peter N. Chalmers, MD
Peter N. Chalmers

“The outcomes of this procedure are completely unknown in [Major League Baseball] MLB players,” Chalmers said. “Specifically, it remains unknown that there may be an important biomechanical role for the superior labral and biceps tendon during the overhand throwing motion.”

To study this, Chalmers and his colleagues used a prospective database maintained by the MLB of both major and minor league baseball players who underwent shoulder surgery since 2010. They used the database to determine demographics, incidence, playing position, prior surgical history, concomitant procedures, rate of return to play, time to return to play and performance after return to play in professional players who underwent biceps tenodesis for superior labral anterior-posterior (SLAP) tears. The baseball players were followed for a minimum of 2 years.

Pitchers vs position players

Chalmers said there were 17 professional baseball players who underwent biceps tenodesis between 2010 and 2013. Of these players, 71% were pitchers and 29% were position players. He also noted 47% of the players had a history of prior surgery and 47% of players had undergone a concomitant labral repair.

Overall, “[professional] baseball players who undergo tenodesis have a 35% return to play. Pitchers have a 16% rate of return to play, which is even lower, while position players have a much higher rate of 80%,” Chalmers said. “But, of those who were able to get back, 100% were able to get back to at least 10 games and there was no significant decline in their performance.”

It was significantly more common for position players to return to professional play than pitchers. It was also less common for players who had prior shoulder surgery to return to play; however, it was not statistically significant. The preoperative and postoperative performance was unchanged in the players who did return to play, Chalmers said.

Future research

The biggest limitation of the study was that because it was based on data from a database, there were no details on the reasons why the professional baseball players who could not return to play did not return to play, according to Chalmers.

“I do not know if there was a problem with the pathology, problem with the procedure [or] problem with the rehab,” he said. “Unfortunately, this study design does not give us the information going forward. It just tells us how big of a problem it is and what the problem is.”

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Chalmers noted that because this study did not demonstrate consistent and good outcomes in these high-level athletes, the next step in his group’s research will be to understand how to best diagnose and treat superior labral tears.

“We are doing further motion analysis research to better understand the pitching motion and alterations within the pitching motion as they relate to these injuries,” he said.

He added, “[Ultimately], research regarding baseball players and SLAP tears is unfortunately always going to be more complicated because the pathways players take to get from the field to the operating table create significant selection bias and because concomitant pathology and concomitant procedures are the rule rather than the exception,” – by Monica Jaramillo

Disclosure: Chalmers reports no relevant financial disclosures.