Return to Play After Shoulder Stabilization in National Football League Athletes

Academic Article


  • Objectives: Shoulder instability is a common and limiting injury to football players. The return to play (RTP) percentage and factors affecting RTP after shoulder stabilization in National Football League (NFL) players are not defined. The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of return to professional football play in the NFL after shoulder stabilization and to determine what factors may affect RTP in these athletes. Methods: Sixty NFL players who had undergone shoulder stabilization at our institution were followed to determine the rate of RTP and factors predicting RTP. Chart review was performed to glean perioperative data and follow-up was performed by accessing the statistics database maintained by the NFL. Successful RTP was defined as return to play in at least one regular season NFL game following surgery. Chi square and Student’s t-tests were performed to examine differences between perioperative and athletic history variables and a player’s ability to RTP. Results: Ninety percent (54 of 60) of NFL players were able to return to game play following shoulder stabilization. The average time to RTP was 8.6 months. Age, number of games before surgery, and career length were not statistically different between those that returned and those that did not. Eleven of the sixty patients underwent open stabilization. Ninety-two percent (45/49) of the arthroscopically treated and eighty-two percent (9/11) of the openly treated athletes were able to RTP; these rates were not found to be significantly different. Playing history and demographics were similar between the open and arthroscopic groups. Players selected before the fourth round of the NFL draft were 7.6 times more likely to RTP. Circumferential labral tears were found in seven athletes, all of whom were able to RTP following surgery. Conclusion: The RTP rates for NFL players following shoulder stabilization are quite high (90%). There is no difference in RTP rates between open and arthroscopic repairs. Being selected in the first four rounds of the NFL draft is highly predictive of a player’s ability to RTP.
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    Author List

  • White MJ; Fleisig GS; Aune K; Andrews JR; Dugas JR; Cain EL
  • Volume

  • 2