February 2012

Time on sideline after syndesmosis sprain varies in professional football

In the moment: Sports medicine

The 14 days that New England Patriots tight end Rob Gron­kowski missed with a much-publicized syndesmosis sprain prior to the Super Bowl were slightly fewer than one National Football League (NFL) team’s average for such injuries, according to research presented this month at the AAOS meeting.

Analyzing a 15-year injury database, investigators found that time lost from participation averaged 15.4 days for syndesmosis sprains and 6.5 days for lateral ankle sprains. In a subsequent survey of all 32 NFL team physicians, 66% of respondents said players typically returned to play in one to four weeks for a syndesmosis sprain with no diastasis; the remaining 33% estimated return at five to eight weeks.

“We’re talking about an injury that affects guys making millions of dollars and even in the Super Bowl can affect the outcome of a game,” said Daryl C. Osbahr, MD, director of sports medicine research at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, who presented the findings. “So we’re trying to find the best way to get these guys back on the field.”


Osbahr DC, Drakos M, O’Loughlin PF, et al. Syndesmosis and lateral ankle sprains in the National Football League. Presented at annual meeting of the American Academy of Ortho­paedic Surgeons, San Francisco, Feb­ru­ary 2012: Abstract 53.

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