Postoperative Body Composition in NCAA Division I Collegiate Athletes


  • Thomas E. Olson, MD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Sai K. Devana, MD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Lauren Papanos, CS, RD, CSSD Performance Nutrition Department, University of California Los Angeles Athletics, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Sharon L. Hame, MD Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Sports Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA



female athlete, injury prevention, nutrition, Return to Sport, postoperative, body composition


INTRODUCTION: Determining return to sport for athletes after surgery can be challenging. Some evidence suggests the risk for injury changes with differences in anthropometrics. Therefore, body composition may be predictive of risk for reinjury after orthopaedic surgery in Division I athletes. The purpose of this study is to establish an objective model of anthropometric changes of Division I collegiate athletes following orthopaedic surgery with specific consideration of gender differences for potential use in future nutritional and return-to-play guidelines.

METHODS: Division I athletes who underwent orthopaedic surgery in a five-year window were identified using training room records and cross-referenced against the facility BOD POD (air displacement plethysmography ) database for body metrics. Changes in body metrics were evaluated as trends from the immediate preoperative measurement up to 1 year following the date of surgery. Data was analyzed with respect to gender and sport. Significance was determined as p<0.05.

RESULTS: In total, 245 Division I athletes were identified as having undergone orthopaedic surgery in the study period. Eighty-four athletes representing 11 sports met the inclusion criteria. Overall, athletes were found to experience a 0.89kg reduction in fat-free body mass (p=0.021) and an increase in body fat percentage by 1.15% (p=0.002) from baseline measurements over the 5-month period following surgery at an average rate of -0.18kg and +0.23% body fat per month, respectively. At the conclusion of the 12-month period following surgery, measurements of fat-free body mass (p=0.341) and body fat percentage (p=0.104) were not found to differ significantly from preoperative baseline. The greatest decrease in fat-free body mass (p=0.013) and increase in body fat percentage (p=0.0008) of male athletes was found the first 3 months after surgery before trending towards baseline months 4-12. The greatest increase in body fat percentage for female athletes was found the first 4 months after surgery before trending towards baseline months 5-12 (p=0.049). No significant trend was observed in fat-free body mass of female athletes (p=0.42).

CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that NCAA Division I collegiate athletes undergo statistically significant anthropometric changes following sports-related orthopaedic surgery, with distinct differences observed between male and female athletes. These changes return to a level that does not significantly differ from baseline body composition measurements one year following surgery. We hope to motivate further studies to compare these trends against return-to-play time and reinjury rates of athletes to provide validated novel metrics for consideration in guiding athlete recovery following surgery.


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How to Cite

Postoperative Body Composition in NCAA Division I Collegiate Athletes. (2023). Journal of Women’s Sports Medicine, 3(3), 22-29.

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