Do athletes have to worry that a cleft lift will restrict movement after the healing process?
This is a common question that active patients have when contemplating proceeding with a cleft lift for pilonidal disease. Although it would logically seem that by flattening the gluteal cleft, that there would be some loss of flexibility in the gluteal area, this has not been the case in our clinic. When we perform a cleft lift, there is no change in the positions of the gluteal muscles or fascia – but rather only skin and underlying fat are adjusted. We are taking an area that actually has too much skin, and flattening it to a contour that is the natural shape for many individuals who do not have pilonidal disease.
Keep in mind that the the relationship between the legs and the pelvis does not have a limitless ability to stretch. The distance between these structures is defined by the rigid pelvis and acetabulum (socket where the femur connects to the pelvis). The changes from a cleft lift are well within these limits.
In our practice we have cared for patients who are football players, baseball players, basketball players, weight lifters, horse back riders, professional hockey players, professional golfers, Zumba fanatics, motorcycle riders, and even tightrope walkers and bull riders!
So, could a patient perceive some tightness or have the perception that motion is limited? It is always possible, especially following other failed operations. But, it has not been a symptom that our patients have brought to our attention as a significant post-operative issue.
Considering that the cleft lift has the highest success rate in treating pilonidal disease, it is a good choice for the active athlete who wants to resume full activity six-eight weeks after surgery.