Performance and Return to Sport After Achilles Tendon Repair in National Football League Players

Robert A. Jack, Kyle R. Sochacki, Stephanie S. Gardner, Patrick C. McCulloch, David M. Lintner, Pedro E. Cosculluela, Kevin E. Varner, Joshua D. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Achilles tendon injuries are common in sports, including football. The purpose of this study was to determine (1) return-to-sport rate in National Football League (NFL) players following Achilles tendon repair, (2) postoperative career length and games per season, (3) pre- and postoperative performance, and (4) postoperative performance compared with control players matched by position, age, years of experience, and performance. Methods: Publicly available records were used to identify NFL players who underwent Achilles tendon repair and matched controls were identified. Ninety-five players (98 surgeries) were analyzed (mean age 28.2 ± 2.8 years; mean 5.5 ± 2.8 years in NFL at time of surgery). Demographic and performance data were collected. Comparisons between case and control groups and preoperative and postoperative time points were made using paired-samples Student t tests. Results: Seventy-one (72.4%) players were able to return to sport in the NFL at a mean of 339.8 ± 84.8 days following surgery. Thirty-one (32%) Achilles tendon repairs were performed during training camp or preseason. Controls (3.6 ± 2.1 years) had a significantly longer NFL career (P <.05) than players who underwent Achilles tendon repair (2.7 ± 2.1 years). There was no significant difference in games per season in subsequent seasons following surgery compared with controls. Postoperative performance scores were significantly worse (P <.05) for running backs (RBs) (n = 4) and linebackers (LBs) (n = 12) compared to preoperative scores. LBs had significantly worse postoperative performance scores when compared to matched controls (P <.05). Conclusion: Following Achilles tendon repair, less than 75% of players returned to the NFL. Postoperative career length was 1 season shorter than matched controls. No difference was observed in the number of games per season played compared to matched controls. Postoperative performance scores were significantly worse for RBs and LBs compared to preoperative and LBs had significantly worse postoperative performance when compared to matched controls. Level of Evidence: Level III, retrospective comparative series.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1092-1099
Number of pages8
JournalFoot and Ankle International
Volume38
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017

Keywords

  • Achilles tendon
  • NFL
  • football
  • return to sport
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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