Lower Extremity Compartment Syndrome in National Football League Athletes.
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the incidence of lower extremity compartment syndrome in National Football League (NFL) athletes and report the mechanisms of injury, methods of treatment, and subsequent days missed. We review the existing literature on lower extremity compartment syndrome in athletic populations.Lower extremity compartment syndrome occurs with a low incidence in NFL athletes, and there is a high return-to-play rate after surgical management of acute compartment syndrome.Case series.Level 4.A retrospective review of recorded cases of lower extremity compartment syndrome from 2000 to 2017 was performed using the NFL Injury Surveillance System and electronic medical record system. Epidemiological data, injury mechanism, rates of surgery, and days missed due to injury were recorded.During the study period, 22 cases of leg compartment syndrome in 21 athletes were recorded. Of these injuries, 50% occurred in games and 73% were the result of a direct impact to the leg. Concomitant tibial fracture was noted in only 2 cases (9.1%) and there was only 1 reported case of chronic exertional compartment syndrome. Surgery was documented in 15 of 22 cases (68.2%). For acute nonfracture cases, the average time missed due to injury was 24.2 days (range, 5-54 days), and all were able to return to full participation within the same season.NFL athletes with acute leg compartment syndrome treated with surgery exhibited a high rate of return to play within the same season.Although compartment syndrome is a relatively rare diagnosis among NFL players, team physicians and athletic trainers must maintain a high index of suspicion to expediently diagnose and treat this potentially limb-threatening condition.