NFL Players Returned to Play After Shoulder Surgery

NFL players with shoulder injury returned to play an average of eight months after shoulder stabilization surgery

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) One common injury for players in the NFL is tearing the shoulder joint, which requires a surgical fix. A recent study examined how long it took players to get back in the game after shoulder stabilization surgery.

Of the small study group, the vast majority were able to return to play after the surgery.

Variables like age and career length, along with whether the surgery was invasive or noninvasive, did not impact time to a return to play.

"Ask your surgeon when it's safe to return to your sport."

Matthew White, MD, of the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, AL, led this research.

Dr. White and his team set out to define what factors affect a professional football player’s ability to return to play after having shoulder stabilization surgery.

Shoulder instabilization happens when the cartilage rim of the shoulder joint, called the labrum, is torn. Shoulder stabilization surgery repairs that.

Dr. White and his colleagues followed 60 NFL players who went through shoulder stabilization surgery.

They analyzed medical records and follow-up data that the NFL maintains. The researchers for this study defined successful return to play as a player participating in at least one regular-season game after surgery.

It took players on average 8.6 months to return to play, and 90 percent of the 60 players were able to return, the study authors reported.

Of the 60 patients, 11 went through open stabilization, during which the shoulder is cut open; 82 percent of that group were able to return to play.

The vast majority of the group, 49 players, received arthroscopic stabilization marked by the insertion of a small camera through an incision. Of those 49, 92 percent returned to play.

"Our study highlighted the success rate of return to play following shoulder stabilization surgery,” Dr. White said in a prepared statement. “Age, number of games before surgery, and career length were not statistically different between those that returned and those that did not.”

Dr. White and his colleagues noted that more long-term investigation of shoulder function in the group of NFL players could lead to a better standard of care.

The researchers presented their findings July 10 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine's 2014 annual meeting in Seattle.

Review Date: 
July 14, 2014
Last Updated:
July 16, 2014