The NFL orthopaedic surgery outcomes database (NO-SOD): The effect of common orthopaedic procedures on football careers

Harry T. Mai*, Andrew P. Alvarez, Ryan D. Freshman, Danielle S. Chun, Shobhit V. Minhas, Alpesh A. Patel, Gordon W. Nuber, Wellington K. Hsu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Background: Injuries are inherent to the sport of American football and often require operative management. Outcomes have been reported for certain surgical procedures in professional athletes in the National Football League (NFL), but there is little information comparing the career effect of these procedures. Purpose: To catalog the postoperative outcomes of orthopaedic procedures in NFL athletes and to compare respective prognoses and effects on careers. Study Design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: Athletes in the NFL undergoing procedures for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, Achilles tendon tears, patellar tendon tears, cervical disc herniation, lumbar disc herniation, sports hernia, knee articular cartilage repair (microfracture technique), forearm fractures, tibial shaft fractures, and ankle fractures were identified through team injury reports or other public records. Game and performance statistics during the regular season were collected before and after surgery. Statistical analysis was performed with significance accepted as P <.05. Results: A total of 559 NFL athletes were included. Overall, 79.4% of NFL athletes returned to play after an orthopaedic procedure. Forearm open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF), sports hernia repair, and tibia intramedullary nailing (IMN) led to significantly higher return-to-play (RTP) rates (90.2%-96.3%), while patellar tendon repair led to a significantly lower rate (50%) (P <.001). Athletes undergoing ACL reconstruction (ACLR), Achilles tendon repair, patellar tendon repair, and ankle fracture ORIF had significant declines in games played at 1 year and recovered to baseline at 2 to 3 years after surgery. Athletes undergoing ACLR, Achilles tendon repair, patellar tendon repair, and tibia IMN had decreased performance in postoperative season 1. Athletes in the Achilles tendon repair and tibia IMN cohorts recovered to baseline performance, while those in the ACLR and patellar tendon repair cohorts demonstrated sustained decreases in performance. Conclusion: ACLR, Achilles tendon repair, and patellar tendon repair have the greatest effect on NFL careers, with patellar tendon repair faring worst with respect to the RTP rate, career length after surgery, games played, and performance at 1 year and 2 to 3 years after surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2255-2262
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • ACL
  • Achilles tendon
  • NFL
  • football
  • patellar tendon
  • surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

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