Background: The incidence of Achilles ruptures has been on the rise in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football players, but the career impact of this injury is not fully understood. In this study, we analyzed a large series of Achilles tendon injuries in NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) defensive football players who required repair in order to determine their return to play, performance, and career outcomes afterward. Methods: FBS defensive football players who required Achilles repair from 2010 to 2016 were identified. The return to play of the eligible underclassmen athletes was then determined and the preinjury and postoperative performances of players who met criteria were compared with matched controls. The number of underclassmen who went on to participate in the National Football League (NFL) Combine or play in at least 1 NFL game was also determined and compared with controls. Results: Fifty-seven total Achilles ruptures were identified, 40 of which occurred in underclassmen, who returned at a rate of 92.5%. Of the players who met performance criteria, only defensive backs differed from matched controls in terms of solo tackling (P =.025) and total tackling (P =.038), while still increasing compared with preoperative performance. Only 5.0% of underclassmen performed at NFL Combine and only 7.5% competed in at least 1 NFL game (20.0% and 21.3%, respectively, for matched controls). Conclusion: Defensive FBS players returned at a high rate following Achilles rupture and did not seem to experience a significant drop-off in performance upon return. An Achilles rupture did appear to impact their chances of playing professionally in the future, however. Level of Evidence: Level III, retrospective comparative study.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine