Is there handball life after shoulder surgery?
The answer is: Yes, you can return to sports, including handball. But depending of the type of surgery you had, your return might be early or require a few months of recovery and therapy.
The three most common shoulder surgeries are arthroscopic acromioplasty and distal clavicle resection; arthroscopic rotator cuff repair or labral repair; and shoulder replacement.
Arthroscopic acromioplasty and distal clavicle resection
Typically, an acute injury does not occur. Symptoms are pain with use and at night. The rotator cuff may have partial tearing.
The surgeon arthroscopically cleans up the cuff and other small tears, removes bone from under the acromion and resects the end of the clavicle. This allows more space for the cuff to move without becoming impinged.
Recovery can be very fast. Therapy is mainly moving the shoulder to regain motion and strength. I've seen golfers play in two weeks and handball players return even sooner.
You won't be 100% for perhaps six weeks or so, but you won't hurt the shoulder. You may have to use the shoulder more defensively for a while, especially until you are comfortable going to the ceiling or hitting a kill shot.
Arthroscopic rotator cuff repair or labral repair
Usually an acute inciting injury occurs, such as a fall or an awkward strain on the shoulder. It definitely hurts to play. Therapy may have been tried but didn't work. An MRI shows a complete traumatic rotator cuff tear, a detached labium or both.
Arthroscopic surgery involves repairing the tear or reattaching the labrum to the bone with special anchors. A sling might be worn for four to six weeks after surgery before beginning supervised therapy.
Unless you can play one-handed, handball is out for a while. A full return might take upward of six months and requires supervised therapy and then additional self-therapy, such as rubber tubing exercises, forever.
Not playing handball for a while doesn't mean not exercising. Biking, doing the elliptical, running and swimming can maintain cardio until a full return to handball.
Typically reserved for older players. The articular cartilage in the gleno-humeral joint wears down to bare bone, often accompanied by the buildup of extra bone or osteophytes that make shoulder motion very painful.
Often there is a history of previous shoulder surgery, usually arthroscopic. An MRI scan may also show large rotator cuff tears. Physical therapy, NSAIDs and injections might prolong playing but eventually become ineffective.
Surgery involves replacing the worn surfaces with a replacement consisting of metal and high-grade polyethylene components. This type of surgery is not arthroscopic but involves an incision over the front of the shoulder.
Post-operative therapy begins quickly with passive and then active motion and continues for at least six weeks. After that, patients continue home or gym exercises to build strength.
Returning to handball will require hard work but is feasible. Replacement of your dominant shoulder will take longer to rehabilitate.
All these guidelines are general and don't cover every shoulder operation. Patients heal and recover at different rates. But the bottom line is that if you are motivated to return to handball after shoulder surgery, you will be able to do so.
By Bob Snyder