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Allen’s Total Shoulder Replacement Story

Posted on: December 7th, 2022 by Our Team

Allen Sarlo virtually grew up in a lifeguard tower in southern California–a front row seat to watching some of the best surfers in the world. It wasn’t long after that he began artfully maneuvering a board himself.

Sarlo’s father, a lifeguard at Santa Monica and Venice Beach, gave him his first board at eight-years-old and taught him the ways of the ocean.

For many, the sport of surfing is a hobby–a way to connect with the ocean and an escape from the mundanities of life. But for Sarlo, it was more. It became his career. His exceptionalism earned him a spot among the top contenders of professional surfing. He earned the nickname “the wave killer” for his ability to slash and cut through some of the biggest and most technically difficult waves in the world.

Surfing was not his only job, though. When Sarlo wasn’t competing, he was selling real estate.

“I worked to surf,” said Sarlo.

The Injury: Osteoarthritis of the shoulder

Despite retiring from professional surfing almost thirty years ago, Sarlo has not slowed down. That is until two years ago when Sarlo was tow-in surfing and impacted by a 20-foot wave.

“I held onto my board with a footstrap, but once that wave came, it ripped my shoulder apart,” said Sarlo, reflecting on the catalyst of a debilitating shoulder injury.

Eight months later, Sarlo was helping his father cut down a tree when he felt the same shoulder become more agitated.

“It just tore a lot of the cartilage even more,” said Sarlo.

But his steadfast love for surfing continued to draw him back to the ocean.

“I was still trying to surf, but I could barely paddle,” he said. “I had this shooting pain from my shoulder to my elbow, and from my wrist to my shoulder,” continued Sarlo. He couldn’t figure out where the pain was coming from.

He tried a number of interventions: platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections, physical therapy, and even a surgery to clear the debris at the site of his injury. But none of the options were promising a successful recovery, and importantly for Sarlo, a return to surfing.

Treatment: Total Shoulder Replacement

So he began exploring different orthopaedic surgeons in Los Angeles–one that could get him back on the waves. Most of their outlooks looked bleak. They assured him less pain in his shoulder with surgery, but avoided any promise-making for the prospects of surfing again.

Then he met shoulder surgeon Dr. Frank Petrigliano, whose markedly optimistic perspective and confidence restored hope in Sarlo and his wishes. He ultimately received a total shoulder replacement, and just four months after surgery, returned to his board.


Sarlo recalled that it took him about a year after surgery to feel the same strength in his shoulder again and to surf the big waves he encountered so often during his career. Now, his confidence has revived.

“I don’t even think about my shoulder anymore when I’m surfing,” said Sarlo. “I’m so glad I did the surgery, it was life changing. I’m back in the water again!”

With a newfound appreciation for the healing abilities of his own surgery, Sarlo recommends his fellow surfers experiencing shoulder pain to visit and consult Dr. Petrigliano.

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