Anterior Shoulder Instability in Throwers and Overhead Athletes: Long-term Outcomes in a Geographic Cohort

Ryan R. Wilbur, Matthew B. Shirley, Richard F. Nauert, Matthew D. LaPrade, Kelechi R. Okoroha, Aaron J. Krych, Christopher L. Camp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Athletes of all sports often have shoulder instability, most commonly as anterior shoulder instability (ASI). For overhead athletes (OHAs) and those participating in throwing sports, clinical and surgical decision making can be difficult owing to a lack of long-term outcome studies in this population of athletes. Purpose/Hypothesis: To report presentation characteristics, pathology, treatment strategies, and outcomes of ASI in OHAs and throwers in a geographic cohort. We hypothesized that OHAs and throwers would have similar presenting characteristics, management strategies, and clinical outcomes but lower rates of return to play (RTP) when compared with non-OHAs (NOHAs) and nonthrowers, respectively. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: An established geographic medical record system was used to identify OHAs diagnosed with ASI in the dominant shoulder. An overall 57 OHAs with ASI were matched 1:2 with 114 NOHAs with ASI. Of the OHAs, 40 were throwers. Sports considered overhead were volleyball, swimming, racquet sports, baseball, and softball, while baseball and softball composed the thrower subgroup. Records were reviewed for patient characteristics, type of sport, imaging findings, treatment strategies, and surgical details. Patients were contacted to collect Western Ontario Shoulder Instability index (WOSI) scores and RTP data. Statistical analysis compared throwers with nonthrowers and OHAs with NOHAs. Results: Four patients, 3 NOHAs and 1 thrower, were lost to follow-up at 6 months. Clinical follow-up for the remaining 167 patients (98%) was 11.9 ± 7.2 years (mean ± SD). Of the 171 patients included, an overall 41 (36%) NOHAs, 29 (51%) OHAs, and 22 (55%) throwers were able to be contacted for WOSI scores and RTP data. OHAs were more likely to initially present with subluxations (56%; P =.030). NOHAs were more likely to have dislocations (80%; P =.018). The number of instability events at presentation was similar. OHAs were more likely to undergo initial operative management. Differences in rates of recurrent instability were not significant after initial nonoperative management (NOHAs, 37.1% vs OHAs, 28.6% [P =.331] and throwers, 21.2% [P =.094]) and surgery (NOHAs, 20.5% vs OHAs, 13.0% [P =.516] and throwers, 9.1% [P =.662]). Rates of revision surgery were similar (NOHAs, 18.0% vs OHAs, 8.7% [P =.464] and throwers, 18.2% [P >.999]). RTP rates were 80.5% in NOHAs, as compared with 71.4% in OHAs (P =.381) and 63.6% in throwers (P =.143). Median WOSI scores were 40 for NOHAs, as compared with 28 in OHAs (P =.425) and 28 in throwers (P =.615). Conclusion: In a 1:2 matched comparison of general population athletes, throwers and OHAs were more likely to have more subtle instability, as evidenced by higher rates of subluxations rather than frank dislocations, when compared with NOHAs. Despite differences in presentation and the unique sport demands of OHAs, rates of recurrent instability and revision surgery were similar across groups. Similar outcomes in terms of RTP, level of RTP, and WOSI scores were achieved for OHAs and NOHAs, but these results must be interpreted with caution given the limited sample size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)182-188
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • anterior shoulder instability
  • baseball
  • overhead athletes
  • throwers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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