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Man doing shoulder rehabilitation exercise

News story

Major grant for research study on shoulder rehabilitation

Publish date: August 11, 2022

A research team led by an Edge Hill academic has been awarded £1.7million by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to investigate potentially ground-breaking post-operative shoulder rehabilitation.

Chief investigator Professor Chris Littlewood is leading a team of researchers – in collaboration with the Derby Clinical Trials Support Unit at University Hospitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust – in a national study exploring a new approach to rehabilitating shoulder muscles and tendons after surgery. 

Professor Littlewood, supported on the project by Edge Hill senior lecturer Maria Moffatt, described the study as “the largest study in the world in this clinical area to date”. 

“Our investigations will address a research question that is important to patients and clinicians, and will help advance clinical practice nationally and internationally,” he said. 

“This funded study is the product of a significant collaborative effort across multiple institutions.” 

Tears of the muscles and tendons of the shoulder are a common cause of pain, disability and work absence, and over the years the number of operations to repair these injuries has increased. 

But despite this increase and improvements in surgical techniques, rehabilitation after surgery has not changed in more than 20 years. 

Current practice following surgery is to wear a sling for four to six weeks but this study is looking at whether it is more effective to enable patients to remove their sling earlier and start moving their arm as soon as they feel able, under the guidance of a physiotherapist. 

The research team conducted a pilot study, which suggested this would result in less shoulder pain and disability, less time off from driving and work, and fewer tendon re-tears. The new, larger study will recruit more patients to fully test this new approach.   

Beginning in September, the study will take almost 5 years to complete; it will include 638 patients undergoing surgical repair of the muscles and tendons of the shoulder, recruited across 24 hospitals. 

The research team includes collaborators from across the UK including Derby, Manchester, Ormskirk, Bristol, York, London, Warwick and Oxford, as well as Brisbane, Australia. 

Clinicians involved in working with patients undergoing rotator cuff repair surgery who are interested in being involved in the study, titled RaCeR 2, can email [email protected] or message @RACER_2_UK on Twitter.

To discover more about our courses, please visit ehu.ac.uk/study.