Orthopedic consequences of modern gladiators: a systematic review of lower extremity musculoskeletal issues in retired NFL players

Academic Article


  • Objectives: The stressors that National Football League (NFL) athletes face are well-described and documented with regard to multisystem afflictions and injury prevalence. However, the majority of literature discusses the short-term effects rather than long-term outcomes of playing professional football. The purpose of this study was to characterize the long-term musculoskeletal issues in the retired NFL population. Methods: Publications from CENTRAL, Scopus, Medline, PubMed, Embase, and Google Scholar were searched from database inception to February 2021. A total of 9 cohort studies evaluating lower extremity arthritis in retired NFL athletes were included for review. Two reviewers extracted data from the individual studies, including demographic information (age, body mass index, length of career, position), injury descriptions (location of injury, number of injuries, diagnoses), and procedure (total knee and or hip arthroplasty) frequency. Results: Arthritis in retired NFL players was more than twice as prevalent than the general United States male population (95% CI: 2.1–2.3). Ankle osteoarthritis was directly correlated with the number of foot and ankle injuries. Players <50 years of age had a 16.1 and 13.8 times higher risk of undergoing TKA and THA, respectively, when compared to the general population. In older age groups, this trend held with retired NFL players being at least 4.3 and 4.6 times more likely than members of the general population to undergo TKA and THA, respectively. Conclusion: This review demonstrates that the effects of NFL-related lower extremity injuries extend beyond the players’ careers and present a higher risk for early-onset osteoarthritis and overall frequency of undergoing total knee and hip arthroplasty.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Pubmed Id

  • 25127127
  • Author List

  • McClure M; Cooke B; Elphingstone J; Schick S; Paul K; Jardaly A; Brabston E; Momaya A; Ponce B