Prevalence and variance of shoulder injuries in elite collegiate football players

Lee D. Kaplan, David C. Flanigan, John Norwig, Patrick Jost, James Bradley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

203 Scopus citations


Background: Shoulder injuries are the fourth most common musculoskeletal injury encountered in American football players. There is little information in the literature on the role of playing position in the type of shoulder injuries seen. Hypothesis: There is a high prevalence of shoulder injuries in elite collegiate American football players, with type of injury varying by playing position. Study Design: Cohort study (prevalence); Level of evidence, 3. Methods: A total of 336 elite collegiate American football players were invited to the National Football League Combine for physical testing and medical evaluation. Current and historical data were evaluated for the purpose of this study, and all players underwent radiographic examinations, including plain radiographs and/or magnetic resonance imaging when necessary. All shoulder pathological conditions and shoulder surgical procedures were recorded. Players were categorized by position for the analysis of position-specific trends. Results: Of the players, 50% had a history of shoulder injuries, with a total of 226 shoulder injuries (1.3 injuries per player injured); 56 players (34%) had a total of 73 surgeries. The most common injuries were acromioclavicular separation (41%), anterior instability (20%), rotator cuff injury (12%), clavicle fracture (4%), and posterior instability (4%). The most common surgeries performed were anterior instability reconstruction (48%), Mumford/Weaver-Dunn surgery (15%), posterior instability surgery (10%), and rotator cuff surgery (10%). Shoulder injuries were more common in quarterbacks and defensive backs. Surgery was more common in linebackers or linemen. A history of anterior instability was more common in defensive players, with surgery required 76% of the time. Linemen had more rotator cuff injuries and posterior instability than players in other positions. Conclusion: Shoulder injuries are common injuries in elite collegiate football players, with one-third undergoing surgical procedures. There are definitive trends in the types of injuries per player position.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1142-1146
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Football-related shoulder injuries
  • Positional injuries
  • Shoulder injuries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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