Objectives: There are limited data on the impact of a patellar tendon repair to a professional athlete’s career. The purpose of this study was to determine differences return to play (RTP) rate, career length, and performance-based outcomes after a patellar tendon repair in professional athletes of four different sports. Methods: Participants met inclusion criteria if initial reports of the date and type of surgery were corroborated by at least two independent sources of information through a well-established protocol of public newspaper archives, team injury reports, and player profiles. Players with other concomitant injuries of the knee or treated nonoperatively were excluded. One hundred and three athletes across professional baseball, basketball, American football, and soccer athletes were identified and met inclusion criteria. RTP rate, career length, and sports-specific performance statistics (i.e. player efficiency rating (PER) for professional basketball players) before and after surgery were collected for each athlete. Results: Seventy-nine (76.7%) professional athletes successfully RTP. American football athletes had the lowest RTP rate and the largest drop in performance in post-operative season 1 (P < 0.001). These athletes also experienced the shortest adjusted career lengths (P = 0.003) compared to players in the other sports. Basketball athletes played significantly less games through post-operative seasons 1 to 3 (P < 0.05). Soccer athletes had less goals and assists per game and played fewer games (P < 0.05) in post-operative season 1 that recovered to baseline by seasons 2 and 3. Conclusion: A patellar tendon rupture is a potentially devastating injury for the professional athlete. American football players appeared to have the worst postoperative outcome with the lowest RTP rate and a most significant decrease in performance in the first postoperative season. This procedure also had a significant short-term impact on soccer athletes who sustained decreases in short-term game performance. These findings are likely explained by the unique physical demands imposed by each sport.
- knee injury
- Patellar tendon
- patellar tendon repair
- professional athlete
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation