Return-to-Play Rates High for Collegiate Football Players after Shoulder Instability Surgery

    Getting back into the game is important for any athlete after a significant injury, but shoulder injuries can be tricky, especially for football players.

    Researchers from the US Air Force Academy Sports Medicine Service who presented a study on shoulder instability at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s recent Annual Meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado, said that surgical treatment for these injuries is often the best medicine for returning to play, especially in collegiate athletes who previously performed at high levels.

    “There was no significant statistical difference in return-to-play rates between the various types of shoulder instability surgery,” said lead author R.J. Robins, MD. “However, athletes who played more games prior to injury and then had surgery were more likely to return.”

    Dr. Robins and his colleagues surveyed 7 Division I collegiate football programs from the PAC 12, SEC and ACC. Inclusion criteria in the study included all intercollegiate football athletes who were active on their teams’ rosters during the 2004-2013 seasons and sustained at least 1 shoulder instability event that eventually required surgical stabilization treatment.

    Data were analyzed to determine overall return-to-play rates based on type of shoulder surgery treatment. One hundred seventy-seven shoulder injuries in 153 athletes were identified and met inclusion criteria.

    They found the following return-to-play rates:

    • Arthroscopic surgery without concomitant procedures: 85.4%
    • Anterior labral repair: 82.4%
    • Posterior labral repair: 92.9%
    • Combined anterior-posterior repair: 84.8%

    The percentage of games played prior to injury was 49.9% and rose to 71.5% following surgery. Ninety-eight percent of athletes who were starters prior to injury were able to return as starters following surgery.

    “Having a scholarship also seemed to significantly correlate to individuals returning following surgery,” said Dr. Robins.

    “Our findings suggest that the majority of players who have some form of shoulder instability repair are able to return and progress as players in their respective football programs.”