Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in Athletes: Scoping Review

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome in Athletes: Scoping Review.
Moretti A, Palomba A, Paoletta M, Liguori S, Toro G, Iolascon G.
Medicina (Kaunas). 2021 Nov 17;57(11):1262. doi: 10.3390/medicina57111262.


Background and Objectives: Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition characterized by disproportionate regional pain, usually affecting distal limbs, that follows trauma or surgery. Athletes may develop CRPS because of exposure to traumatic or overuse injuries. The aim of the present study is to review the available literature about CRPS type 1 in athletes. Materials and Methods: We searched two online databases (PubMed and Web of Science), selecting papers aiming at investigating CRPS type 1 (algodystrophy) in athletes. The analysis of databases was made considering original articles published until 30 June 2021, written in English. Results: Fifteen papers (12 case reports, 3 case series) were selected for a total of 20 clinical cases (15 females, 5 males), aged between 10 and 46 years (mean age 18.4 ± 9.8 standard deviation years). Patients included practiced different types of sport (soccer, athletics, gymnastics, basketball). The most involved anatomical sites were lower limbs, and time to diagnosis ranged from 2 days to 4 years. The most used treatments were pharmacological and physical therapies, but sometimes invasive approaches, as regional nerve, or lumbar sympathetic blocks, were provided. The main assessed outcomes were return to activity and pain. Conclusions: Our review suggests a higher prevalence of CRPS type 1 in younger people and in lower limbs than in general population but confirms the higher prevalence in females. However, the number of studies addressing CRPS in athletes is limited, as well as the number of involved patients, considering that only few and heterogeneous case reports were published about this topic. Moreover, the high prevalence of old studies (only 5 available studies in the last 10 years) might have influenced the choice of both assessment tools and management strategies. Despite these limitations, athletes showing disproportionate pain after sport-related injury should be promptly evaluated and treated through a multidimensional approach to avoid long-term consequences of algodystrophy.

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L'Associazione Italiana per lo Studio del Dolore è il capitolo italiano dell'International Association for the Study of Pain IASP® e della European Pain Federation EFIC®