UCLA’s Keefe benched due to shoulder injury, but recovery likely

UCLA forward James Keefe will miss two to three weeks with the team to recovery from a dislocated left shoulder. The senior was injured during the first half of UCLA’s game against New Mexico State on December 15th. The injury occurred on the same shoulder that required surgery for a torn labrum in 2007.

Shoulder injuries among athletes is not uncommon and can bench a player for weeks or months. There was a time when such injuries that required surgery brought about career-ending fears, but technology over the years has made full recovery a more likely possibility. However, just a few years ago, surgery to repair the shoulder often was the cause of more serious injury.

A recent study published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine first brought to light the connection between chondrolysis, a condition in which the cartilage in the shoulder has been eroded away, and the use of pain pump devices during and following arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Pain pumps are balloon-like devices that hold local anesthetics. During surgery catheters that lead from the balloon area of the device are inserted into the surgical site. Pain medication is then administered for up to 72 hours following surgery. Once the medication has been used up, the patient simply pulls out the catheter.

Pain pumps are approved by the FDA with the catheter placed in the shoulder tissue. However, in the late 1990s, pain pump manufacturers began instructing surgeons to insert the catheter directly into the shoulder joint, allowing the medication to drip directly onto the cartilage, a use that was not FDA approved.

In the early 2000s, doctors became puzzled when more and more patients who had surgery to repair shoulder injuries – and who showed no signs of cartilage wear at the time of surgery – were suffering from pain and loss of motion, and were ultimately diagnosed with chondrolysis. It didn’t take long for doctors to make the connection between the debilitating chondrolysis and the use of pain pump devices.

Since the connection was made, the FDA and professional groups have instructed surgeons of the correct, FDA-approved use of shoulder pain pumps, making the surgery safer for patients. Meanwhile, the lawsuits against pain pump manufacturers are mounting.