Success of nonoperative management of adductor longus tendon ruptures in National Football League athletes

Theodore F Schlegel, Brandon D Bushnell, Jenna Godfrey, Martin Boublik
American Journal of Sports Medicine 2009, 37 (7): 1394-9

BACKGROUND: Acute complete ruptures of the proximal adductor longus tendon are rare but challenging injuries to treat. The limited literature supports operative treatment, but data from management of chronic groin pain in athletes indicate that anatomical attachment of the tendon to the pubis may not be required for high-level function.

HYPOTHESIS: Nonoperative management of complete adductor rupture can provide equal results to surgical repair in terms of return to play in the National Football League.

STUDY DESIGN: Case series; Level of evidence, 4.

METHODS: Using the National Football League Injury Surveillance System, adductor tendon ruptures documented by magnetic resonance imaging were identified in 19 National Football League players from 1992 to 2004. The team physician for each respective player completed a survey with information about history, physical examination, magnetic resonance imaging findings, treatment, and outcomes. Statistics were analyzed with a Student unpaired t test.

RESULTS: Fourteen players were treated nonoperatively, and 5 players were treated with surgical repair using suture anchors. In both groups, all players eventually returned to play in the National Football League. Mean time for return to play was 6.1 +/- 3.1 weeks (range, 3-12 weeks) for the nonoperative group and 12.0 +/- 2.5 weeks (range, 10-16 weeks) for the operative group (P = .001). One player in the operative group suffered the complication of a draining wound and heterotopic ossification. Players represented a variety of positions, and 12 of 19 (63%) had experienced prior symptoms or events.

CONCLUSION: Nonoperative treatment of proximal adductor tendon rupture results in a statistically significantly faster return to play than does operative treatment in athletes competing in the National Football League and avoids the risks associated with surgery while providing an equal likelihood of return to play at the professional level.

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