History of shoulder injury in NFL-caliber players is associated with reduced overall draft rates, higher (worse) overall draft pick, and reduced performance in the NFL compared to control athletes without shoulder injury.
Shoulder injuries remain among the most common traumatic injuries in high-level football players. However, there remains a paucity of information available on the impact of shoulder on draft prospect and professional performance. The purpose of this study is to define the epidemiology of shoulder injuries in NFL athletes, and to determine the impact of associated injuries on draft status and performance in the NFL.
All NFL-caliber athletes who attended the NFL Scouting Combine between 2009 and 2015 were analyzed for history of shoulder injury. The impact of shoulder injury on NFL draft pick status and NFL performance, including games started, games played, and position-specific performance outcomes, were analyzed, and compared to control Combine athletes, which were defined as athletes with no history of shoulder injury in college, no surgical history, and no history of missing > 2 total games in college.
A total of 1143/2198 (52%) at the Combine had a history of shoulder injury, including 527 acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) injuries (46%), 90 posterior labrum injuries (8%), 77 anterior labrum injuries (7%), 69 clavicle injuries (6%), 42 rotator cuff injuries (4%), 14 superior labrum anterior to posterior (SLAP) lesions (1%), 14 sternoclavicular joint injuries (1%), and 16 biceps injuries (1%). In addition, 267 athletes (23%) had “complex” injuries, indicating multiple sites about the shoulder, while 207 athletes (18%) had shoulder injuries designated as “other.” Combine athletes with shoulder injuries were more likely to go undrafted compared to controls (34% undrafted, vs. 27.3% for controls), and had a higher undrafted rate with biceps (43.8%), SLAP (42.9%), ACJ (35.9%), ACJ (35.6%), labrum (33%), and complex injuries (35.6%) Similarly, of the drafted athletes, those with shoulder injuries were more likely to have a higher (worse) overall draft pick compared to controls. In general, athletes with shoulder injuries played and started fewer games in their first two seasons in the NFL than controls (played: 23.7±7.7, started 11.1±10.5), with sternoclavicular injuries associated with the lowest numbers of games played (17±8.5) and started (10.3±11.2).
Discussion And Conclusion
History of shoulder injury in NFL-caliber players is associated with reduced overall draft rates, higher (worse) overall draft pick, and reduced performance in the NFL compared to control athletes without shoulder injury. Overall, ACJ injuries are the most prevalent of shoulder injuries among NFL-caliber athletes. Additional analysis is warranted to determine the overall impact of specific types of shoulder injuries, as well as shoulder surgery, on position-specific performance and career longevity.