Recurrent Labral Tearing on Magnetic Resonance Imaging Is Not Predictive of Diminished Participation Among National Football League Athletes

Arthroscopy. 2018 Jan;34(1):66-72. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2017.07.007. Epub 2017 Sep 30.


Purpose: To investigate the prevalence of shoulder labral repair and utility of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in determining the risks of recurrent labral tearing and impact on future participation in the National Football League (NFL).

Methods: Athletes invited to the NFL Combine between 2012 and 2015 were retrospectively reviewed. Athletes with a history of labral repair and MRI of the operative shoulder at the Combine were included in the study for further analysis, excluding athletes without a history of labral repair, labral repair without MRI at the Combine, additional procedure to the operative shoulder, or athletes still undergoing rehabilitation at the time of the Combine after labral repair. All MRIs were reviewed to determine initial labral repair location, the presence of recurrent tearing, and any concomitant shoulder pathology. Prospective information on future NFL participation in regard to draft status, games played, and games started in the athlete's first NFL season after the Combine was compared between athletes with a history of labral repair with and without recurrent tearing versus all other athletes participating in the Combine.

Results: A total of 132 (10.1%) athletes underwent 146 shoulder labral repair procedures before the NFL Combine, of whom 32% (n = 39 athletes, n = 46 shoulders) had recurrent labral tears on MRI. Athletes with recurrent tears were more likely to have undergone bilateral labral repairs (P = .048) and possess concomitant shoulder pathology (P < .001). Recurrent labral tearing was significantly more common in the posterior labrum in athletes with a history of posterior labral repairs (P = .032). Prospective participation in the NFL in terms of games played (P = .38) or started (P = .98) was not significantly reduced in athletes with a history of labral repair compared with those without repair. Participation was not diminished in athletes with recurrent labral tears compared with those with intact repairs or those with evidence of degenerative joint disease.

Conclusions: Athletes invited to the NFL Scouting Combine with a history of bilateral repair, posterior labral repair, and concomitant shoulder pathology are at high risk of recurrent labral tearing on MRI. No significant reduction in NFL participation the year after the Combine was seen in athletes with a history of labral repair, recurrent labral tearing, or degenerative joint disease who were successfully drafted into the NFL. In athletes with a history of labral repair, assessment of labral integrity on MRI alone is not predictive of future short-term participation.

Level of evidence: Level IV, prognostic study-case series.

MeSH terms

  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Athletic Injuries / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Shoulder Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Shoulder Injuries / epidemiology
  • Soccer / injuries*