Return to Sport After Rotator Cuff Tear Repair: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

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One of the most frequent demands from athletes after rotator cuff tear repair is to return to sport, if possible at the same level of play.


The main goal of this study was to determine the rate of return to sport after treatment of rotator cuff tears.

Study Design:

Meta-analysis and systematic review.


The PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines were followed to perform this systematic review and meta-analysis of the results in the literature, as well as for the presentation of results. A search of the literature was performed on the electronic databases MEDLINE, Scopus, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library. The quality of the included studies was evaluated according to the MINORS (Methodological Index for Nonrandomized Studies) checklist. Inclusion criteria were studies in English evaluating return to sport after treatment of traumatic, degenerative, partial or full-thickness rotator cuff tears in patients practicing a sport regularly, whatever the level, all ages and sports included. The main judgment criterion was the number of patients who returned to a sports activity after treatment of a rotator cuff tear. The criterion was analyzed in 2 ways: return to sport (yes/no) and the level of play (identical or higher/lower level).


Twenty-five studies were reviewed, including 859 patients (683 athletes), all treated surgically after a mean follow-up of 3.4 years (range, 0.3-13.4 years). The level of sports was recorded in 23 studies or 635 (93%) athletes and included 286 competitive or professional athletes and 349 recreational athletes. The most commonly practiced sports were baseball (224 participants), tennis (104 participants), and golf (54 participants). The overall rate of return to sport was 84.7% (95% CI, 77.6%-89.8%), including 65.9% (95% CI, 54.9%-75.4%) at an equivalent level of play, after 4 to 17 months. Of the professional and competitive athletes, 49.9% (95% CI, 35.3-64.6%) returned to the same level of play.


Most recreational athletes return to sports at the same level of play as before their injury, but only half of professional and competitive athletes return to an equivalent level of play.

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