From Collegiate to Professional Athlete

With the NFL draft coming up, there is much anticipation about which players will end up with which team. While there are many changes with transitioning from collegiate to professional athlete, there is at least one constant that collegiate athletes will face – weighing the timeliness of treatment options when injured mid-season. There are currently a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatments that exist for core muscle injuries- corticosteroid injections, massage, core stability exercises, muscle sequence/kinetic chain modifications, and avoidance of certain exercises. While many core muscle injuries require surgery, there may be other option to getting an athlete through a season before getting surgery. Many of the factors to consider are level of performance, risk of additional injury, timing within the season, and contract issues.

Injections are often an option for treating core injuries to get athletes through a season before definitive surgery. While this is a common practice, there is little data about the efficacy of temporizing solutions. Does managing a core muscle injury non-operatively for the length of a season have any effect on the outcome after surgery?

Drs. William Meyers and Alexander Poor recently led a study that sought to answer just that. After reviewing their experience with corticosteroid injections in followed collegiate and professional athletes over the course of a full athletic season, they found delaying definitive repair with cortisone injections does not negatively affect postoperative outcomes.

While injections may be an option for players who are injured during the season, it is important to consider other factors before deciding a treatment plan. Generally, severe injuries do not heal without surgery; and if an injury is diagnosed early in the season the best option may be to have surgery immediately. Depending on the injury, a player may return to full game play between a matter of days and seven weeks after surgery. There is a role for “minimal” operations for select athletes with certain injuries that may return the player within a few days, but it’s necessary to weigh the value of an extremely early return versus the possibility of additional surgery later.

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