Return to Play After Shoulder Instability Surgery in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Intercollegiate Football Athletes

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Abstract

Background:

Recent attention has focused on the optimal surgical treatment for recurrent shoulder instability in young athletes. Collision athletes are at a higher risk for recurrent instability after surgery.

Purpose:

To evaluate variables affecting return-to-play (RTP) rates in Division I intercollegiate football athletes after shoulder instability surgery.

Study Design:

Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods:

Invitations to participate were made to select sports medicine programs that care for athletes in Division I football conferences (Pac-12 Conference, Southeastern Conference [SEC], Atlantic Coast Conference [ACC]). After gaining institutional review board approval, 7 programs qualified and participated. Data on direction of instability, type of surgery, time to resume participation, and quality and level of play before and after surgery were collected.

Results:

There were 168 of 177 procedures that were arthroscopic surgery, with a mean 3.3-year follow-up. Overall, 85.4% of players who underwent arthroscopic surgery without concomitant procedures returned to play. Moreover, 15.6% of athletes who returned to play sustained subsequent shoulder injuries, and 10.3% sustained recurrent instability, resulting in reduction/revision surgery. No differences were noted in RTP rates in athletes who underwent anterior labral repair (82.4%), posterior labral repair (92.9%), combined anterior-posterior repair (84.8%; P = .2945), or open repair (88.9%; P = .9362). Also, 93.3% of starters, 95.4% of utilized players, and 75.7% of rarely used players returned to play. The percentage of games played before the injury was 49.9% and rose to 71.5% after surgery (P < .0001). Athletes who played in a higher percentage of games before the injury were more likely to return to play; 91% of athletes who were starters before the injury returned as starters after surgery. Scholarship status significantly correlated with RTP after surgery (P = .0003).

Conclusion:

The majority of surgical interventions were isolated arthroscopic stabilization procedures, with no statistically significant difference in RTP rates when concomitant arthroscopic procedures or open stabilization procedures were performed. Athletes who returned to play often played in a higher percentage of games after surgery than before the injury, and many played at the same or a higher level after surgery.

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