Femoroacetabular Impingement in Professional Football Players: Return to Play and Predictors of Career Length After Hip Arthroscopy

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Abstract

Background:

Previous studies have shown hip arthroscopy to be a highly effective treatment for symptomatic femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) in a wide range of athletes; however, the rate of return to play and length of career after hip arthroscopy in professional football players are unknown.

Purpose:

To determine how many athletes returned to professional football and the number of seasons they played after surgery.

Study Design:

Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods:

Fifty-one professional football players (60 hips) underwent hip arthroscopy for FAI between 2000 and 2014 by a single surgeon. Return to play was defined as competing in a preseason or regular season professional football game after surgery. Data were retrospectively obtained for each player from NFL.com, ESPN.com, individual team websites, and/or CFL.ca.

Results:

We found that 87% (52/60) of the arthroscopic procedures allowed professional football players to return to play in a preseason or regular season game. Athletes who returned played an average of 38 games during 3.2 seasons after arthroscopy, with an average total career length of 7.4 seasons. Ninety-two percent (48/52) of players who returned had a minimum total career length of 3 years. When participants were analyzed by position, linemen were less likely to return after hip arthroscopy compared with other players (odds ratio 5.6; 95% CI, 1.1-35; P = .04). All quarterbacks and tight ends returned to play after surgery. No significant difference in return to play rate was found between athletes who underwent microfracture and those who did not (25% vs 38%, P = .698).

Conclusion:

Hip arthroscopy for treatment of FAI and associated pathologic abnormalities in professional football players resulted in a high rate of return to play. The study’s findings demonstrate that 87% of the arthroscopic procedures allowed professional football players to return to play, linemen were less likely to return compared with other positions, and the presence of microfracture did not significantly affect the return to play rate. These findings support hip arthroscopy as an effective procedure to treat FAI and related pathologic abnormalities in the professional football player, and this information is important for proper counseling of athletes with FAI.

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