Acromioclavicular Joint Separation in UEFA Soccer Players: A Matched-Cohort Analysis of Return to Play and Player Performance From 1999 to 2018

Connor C. Diaz, Enrico M. Forlenza, Ophelie Z. Lavoie-Gagne, Derrick M. Knapik, Avinaash Korrapati, Jorge Chahla, Brian Forsythe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) separation injuries are uncommon in professional soccer players, threatening future performance and team contributions. Data regarding return to play (RTP) in professional soccer players after ACJ separation are limited. Purpose: To determine the rate, time to RTP, and player performance after ACJ separation in soccer players from the top 5 professional European leagues when compared with a retrospective, matched cohort of uninjured players. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: Professional soccer players suffering ACJ separation injuries between 1999 and 2018 were identified and were matched to uninjured players (2 controls to 1 injured player) by position, height, age, season year, and length of time played. Information on date of injury, timing to RTP, and player performance metrics (minutes played, games played, goals scored, assists made, and points per game) were collected from,,, official team websites, public injury reports, and press releases. Change in performance metrics for the 4 seasons after the season of injury were based on metrics 1 season before injury. Univariate comparisons were performed using independent 2-group t tests and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests when normality of distributions was violated. Results: A total 59 soccer players with ACJ separation injuries were identified. Mean age at injury was 24.6 ± 5.3 years. Of these, 81% of the players returned to play, with 69% returning within postinjury season 1. Mean time to RTP was 49.8 ± 24.3 days (5.9 ± 4.1 games). Two players suffered recurrent ACJ separation injuries in their professional soccer careers. There were no significant differences between athletes who sustained ACJ injuries versus control athletes in the number of games played, minutes per game per season, goals scored, assists, or points in the 4 seasons after injury. Defenders played fewer minutes and recorded fewer assists during postinjury season 1 when compared with control athletes. Conclusion: Of the 59 elite soccer players who sustained ACJ separation injuries during the study period, 81% returned to elite competition. Performance metrics were similar to preinjury levels and matched, uninjured control players.

Original languageEnglish
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021


  • Union of European Football Associations (UEFA)
  • acromioclavicular joint separation
  • player performance
  • return to play
  • soccer


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