Rates and determinants of return to play after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in NCAA division 1 college football athletes: A study of the ACC, SEC, and PAC-12 conferences

Jimmy H. Daruwalla, Patrick E. Greis, Robert Hancock, Eric C. McCarty, Kirk Reynolds, Miguel Rueda, Claude T. Moorman, Darren Johnson, Jason Dragoo, Steve Bartlinski, Jeffrey Spang, R. Alex Creighton, Tim Taft, Scott Trulock, Doug Halverson, George F.Rick Hatch, Jarrad Merriman, Russ Romano, Kurt Spindler, Thomas BossungDavid Diduch, Kelli Pugh, Edwin M. Tingstad, Lee Kaplan, Michael Gombosh, John W. Xerogeanes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Background: For competitive athletes, return to play (RTP) and return to preinjury levels of performance after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction are the main goals of surgery. Although outcomes of ACL surgery are well studied, details on factors influencing RTP in elite college football players have not been evaluated thoroughly. Purpose: To determine the rate of RTP following ACL surgery among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 collegiate football athletes and to examine variables that may affect these rates. The hypothesis was that the RTP rate in this cohort will be influenced by factors reflecting skill and accomplishment; that is, athletes higher on the depth chart, those on scholarship, and those later in their careers will have higher RTP rates. It was also predicted that graft type and concomitant procedures may have an effect on RTP rates. Study Design: Case series; Level of evidence, 4. Methods: Using athlete- and surgery-specific data from participating institutions in 3 major Division 1 college football conferences, information on athletes who had ACL reconstruction from 2004 through 2010 was collected. Statistical analyses were performed to determine the RTP rate as a function of the variables, such as depth chart position, in the data collected. Results: Of the 184-player cohort, 82%of the athletes, including 94%of starters,were able toRTP.Rateswere greateramong athletes higher on the depth chart (P=.004) and on scholarship (P=.008). Year of eligibility also affected RTP rates (P=.047),which increased fromthe redshirt and freshman year to the sophomore and junior years, but then decreased slightly into the senior and fifth-year senior seasons. The use of an autograft versus allograft was associated with increased RTP (P = .045). There was no significant difference (P = .18) between players who underwent an isolated ACL reconstruction versus those who underwent additional procedures. Conclusion: More than 80% of football players at the Division 1 level were able to RTP following ACL reconstruction. Factors representative of a player’s skill were associated with higher rates of RTP. Surgery-specific variables, in general, had no effect on RTP, except for the use of autograft, which was associated with a greater RTP rate.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2014.


  • ACL
  • College athletes
  • Football
  • Reconstruction
  • Return to play

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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