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A Journal on Applied Physiology, Biomechanics, Preventive Medicine,
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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2012 February;52(1):71-9

language: English

The gymnast’s shoulder MRI and clinical findings

De Carli A. 1, Mossa L. 2, Larciprete M. 3, Ferretti M. 4, Argento G. 1, Ferretti A. 1

1 Sant’Andrea Hospital, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy;
2 Unit of Orthopedics and Traumatology, La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy;
3 Sports Medicine Institute, Turin, Italy;
4 San Luca Clinic, Rome, Italy


AIM:The aim of the study was to evaluate effects of shoulder overuse in elite symptomatic or asymptomatic gymnasts.
METHODS:This was a university-based sport traumatology research, a cohort study, with a control group comparison. Patients included were: 21 elite male gymnasts performing in the Italian National team for at least 10 years and a control group of 10 patients (20 shoulders) of the same age and sex, randomly selected among a healthy non-athletic population who underwent shoulder MRI. Magnetic resonance imaging without contrast were performed to all participants and clinical findings were summarized. Two experienced musculoskeletal radiologists interpreted each MRI scan for multiple variables (rotator cuff tendons, labral signal, capsule), including type of measurements performed on soft tissues (muscles, tendons) to assess global modifications of the shoulders.
RESULTS: Signal abnormalities were detected in 36/36 (100%) gymnasts’ shoulders, and in 4/20 (20%) of the controls. Sixteen of 36 (44.4%) shoulders had findings consistent with SLAP tears, bilateral in four patients; anteroinferior labrum lesions were identified in 10/36 (27.7%) shoulders, as compared with none (0%) in the controls. Eight of 36 (22%) shoulders had findings consistent with partial- or full-thickness tears of the rotator cuff as compared with none (0%) of the controls. Increased thickness of rotator cuff tendons and hypertrophy of rotator cuff muscles and deltoid muscles were recorded: such reports were symmetrical between dominant and non dominant arms, and increased when compared to controls.
CONCLUSION: Gymnasts’ shoulders are significantly different from those of the general population. MRI findings, especially SLAP tears, and hypertrophy are symmetrical. SLAP tears seem to be responsible of most early retirement.

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