When is surgery used?
Surgery is often considered a last resort for amateur sports players but can be a fairly common treatment amongst professional and elite athletes. Surgery is most commonly used following a serious injury or as a result of persistent symptoms which have not been eradicated using other treatments.
Common sports procedures
Common surgical procedures in sport include repair to damaged cartilage and ligaments in the knee (especially cruciate ligament tears), AC shoulder injuries, dislocations and tendonitis. Surgery can usually be used to repair damaged soft tissue, align bones and re-position joints.
Types of surgical procedure
Some procedures will be fairly straightforward and may not last long, while more serious and complex injuries will take longer and may need to be carried out under anaesthetic. Many sports injuries are treated by keyhole surgery today; this involves the surgeon using a tiny camera to guide them rather than making a large incision and carrying out an open procedure; this type of surgery is particularly common with knee injuries (this is also known as an arthroscopy).
Possible side-effects of surgery
Surgical procedures are usually invasive, which means there is an increased risk of infection; this is rare but can happen. Other side-effects are usually associated with anaesthesia and include nausea, drowsiness and confusion. Many people are afraid of having surgery and consequently feel anxious and scared leading up to the actual procedure.
Recovering from a surgical procedure
Recovery will depend on the nature and severity of the injury and the subsequent surgical procedure; however, most injuries will require a long rest period following surgery when the affected joint, muscle or area of soft tissue should be allowed to heal fully. Once healing has started, physiotherapy is commonly used to build strength in and around the injured area and increase the range of movement and flexibility around the joint or muscle. Physiotherapy will also help to condition the injured body part, which will make it more resistant to injury in the future.