Effect of shoulder stabilization on career length in national football league athletes

Robert H. Brophy, Corey S. Gill, Stephen Lyman, Ronnie P. Barnes, Scott A. Rodeo, Russell F. Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Scopus citations


Background: Shoulder instability and surgical stabilization are common in college football athletes. The effect of shoulder stabilization during college on the length of an athlete's career in the National Football League (NFL) has not been well examined. Hypothesis: Athletes with a history of shoulder stabilization before the NFL combine have a shorter career than do matched controls. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: A database containing the injury history and career NFL statistics of athletes from 1987 to 2000 was used to match athletes with a history of shoulder stabilization and no other surgery or significant injury to controls without a history of any previous surgery or significant injury. Athletes were matched by position, year drafted, round drafted, and additional minor injury history. Results: Forty-two athletes with a history of shoulder stabilization were identified and matched with controls. A history of shoulder stabilization significantly reduced the length of career in terms of years (5.2 ± 3.9 vs 6.9 ± 3.6 years; P =.01) and games played (56 ± 53 vs 77 ± 50, P =.03) as compared with controls. By position, linemen and linebackers (20 athletes) with a history of shoulder stabilization had a significantly shorter career in years (4.7 ± 3.8 vs 6.7 ± 3.4 years; P =.049) and games played (51 ± 58 vs 81 ± 48; P =.046) than did controls. Among the other positions (22 athletes), the difference was not statistically significant in this small cohort. Conclusion: A history of shoulder stabilization shortens the expected career of a professional football player, particularly for linemen and linebackers. Further research is warranted to better understand how these injuries and surgeries affect an athlete's career and what can be done to improve the long-term outcome after treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-709
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2011
Externally publishedYes



  • American football
  • instability
  • shoulder
  • stabilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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