Previous studies have reported that hip abnormalities may account for 10% of injuries in professional football players. The effect of femoroacetabular impingement (FAI) and arthroscopic FAI surgery in National Football League (NFL) athletes has not been well studied.
To investigate the effect of arthroscopic FAI surgery on return to play (RTP) and RTP performance in NFL players.
Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.
NFL athletes undergoing arthroscopic FAI surgery at a single institution between 2006 and 2014 were identified. Medical records were reviewed for demographic, clinical, and operative variables. RTP and RTP performance were assessed based on a review of publicly available NFL player statistics. RTP and RTP performance data included time to RTP; games played before and after the injury; yearly total yards and touchdowns for offensive players; and yearly total tackles, sacks, and interceptions for defensive players. The offensive power rating (OPR = [total yards/10] + [total touchdowns × 6]) and defensive power rating (DPR = total tackles + [total sacks × 2] + [total interceptions × 2]) were calculated. Paired t tests comparing preinjury and postinjury seasons were performed. A matched cohort of NFL players was created to compare trends for OPR, DPR, and career longevity.
Forty-eight hips in 40 NFL players (mean age, 25.6 years) with symptomatic FAI were included; 8 players underwent staged bilateral hip arthroscopic procedures. The majority of players were offensive (n = 24; 60.0%), with offensive lineman (n = 11; 27.5%) being the most common of all positions. Of the 48 included hips, all had labral tears, and 41 (85.4%) underwent labral repair. Forty-two of the 48 hips (87.5%) underwent cam decompression, and 10 (20.8%) underwent rim decompression. Of the 40 included players, 37 (92.5%) achieved RTP to professional competition after their hip arthroscopic surgery at a mean of 6.0 months. Before the injury, included patients played in a mean of 11.0 games compared with 9.5 games in their postoperative season ( P = .26). The mean OPR and DPR demonstrated a nonsignificant decline in the postoperative season (preinjury OPR, 40.2; postinjury OPR, 32.3; P = .34) (preinjury DPR, 49.6; postinjury DPR, 36.4; P = .10). A similar decline in the OPR and DPR across seasons was observed in the control group. NFL athletes played, on average, 3.3 ± 1.5 seasons after undergoing hip arthroscopic surgery; this was not significantly different from the controls (2.5 ± 1.5 seasons; P = .47). There was no significant difference in mean annual salaries based on contracts negotiated before the injury and the first negotiated contract after surgery ($3.3 million vs $3.6 million, respectively; P = .58).
There was a very high rate of RTP in the NFL after arthroscopic FAI surgery; this rate is higher than what has been previously reported for other orthopaedic procedures in NFL athletes. Additionally, these NFL athletes achieved RTP at a faster time frame (6 months) than previously reported for other procedures. These findings have important implications for counseling elite football players about the expected outcome of arthroscopic FAI surgery.