OBJECTIVE: To assess the outcome of athletes returning to contact sport with indwelling fracture implants. METHOD: A retrospective analysis of professional rugby union players competing in the South Wales premier league. RESULTS: Fifteen athletes were identified who had returned to competitive rugby union with retained fracture implants during the period 1990-97. After fracture fixation, the players resumed their preinjury level of contact sport within one to 12 months. Only two athletes suffered complications in relation to the retained implant, whereas the other 13 athletes played for up to six years without symptoms. CONCLUSION: The results from this preliminary series suggest that an early return to contact sport is feasible in selected cases. Avoiding the extended delay associated with implant removal affords not only minimal disruption to competitive participation, but also prevents prolonged financial losses for the professional player.
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