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SLAP Repair in Climber

Had a SLAP repair at the begining of August, so 3 months ago and counting. My doc said I could start climbing gently at 4 months. We shall see.

In case you care, I can give you a few lines on what it was like. I had what is sometimes called a SLAP 4, (1 and 3 are not so bad, 2 and 4 include detatched biceps tendon, 4 is worse). Surgery was an hour, arthroscopic. I had general anaesthetic. The main hassle was a month in an imobilizing sling and 3 without using the biceps. During the month my rotator cuff muscles atrophied a lot, so regaining strength and range of motion in them was a lot of work. Obviously I dont know the bottom line yet, but my doc told me that once the repair was fully healed (3 months) and I had strength back in the biceps I should have no long term problems.

As to what you should do. If it really needs the surgery then you have to have it, otherwise it will get worse over time and eventually need a lot of work. I spoke to a climber who learned this the hard way - her eventual repair needed 6 weeks in an immobilizer and excruciating pain for a couple of months of recovery. It is hard to know for sure even from an MRI if it is really needed, but this is because MRIs have a lot of false positives, so they might see something which is not really a problem. If you have frequent dislocations and your surgeon is sure, then you probably really do need it. If not (as was my case) then the only thing they can do is go in with a camera and take a look. This is already surgery, so if they find a problem they will probably fix it on the spot. If there is no problem then your rehab from the camera surgery is short, a few days in a sling and a few (3 or 4) weeks of physical therapy. If they have to do a repair then the absolute key thing is not to use your biceps for anything while it is healing. Trust your surgeon on this.

Oh, one other thing. there are a fair few people out there who had this surgery a bunch of years ago when it was new and who had the repair get damaged. this is apparently a lot less common now that they stitch the labrum together with a cord screwed to the glenoid fossa. in the old days they used tacks which came out in some cases.

If you want to know, the climber who had the six weeks in the sling was climbing again at 4 months and is leading solid trad again. here's hoping we are both so lucky.

Also see:
- Educational Presentation of SLAP lesions in Climbers (requires Macromedia Flash)
- Details on SLAP Repair

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