Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the rate of return to play and to quantify the effect on the basketball player's performance after surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Methods: Surgical injuries involving the ACL were queried for a 10-year period (1993-1994 season through 2004-2005 season) from the database maintained by the National Basketball Association (NBA). Standard statistical categories and player efficiency rating (PER), a measure that accounts for positive and negative playing statistics, were calculated to determine the impact of the injury on player performance relative to a matched comparison group. Over the study period, 31 NBA players had 32 ACL reconstructions. Two patients were excluded because of multiple ACL injuries, one was excluded because he never participated in league play, and another was the result of nonathletic activity.
Results: Of the 27 players in the study group, 6 (22%) did not return to NBA competition. Of the 21 players (78%) who did return to play, 4 (15%) had an increase in the preinjury PER, 5 (19%) remained within 1 point of the preinjury PER, and the PER decreased by more than 1 point after return to play in 12 (44%). Although decreases occurred in most of the statistical categories for players returning from ACL surgery, the number of games played, field goal percentage, and number of turnovers per game were the only categories with a statistically significant decrease. Players in the comparison group had a statistically significant increase in the PER over their careers, whereas the study group had a marked, though not statistically significant, increase in the PER in the season after reconstruction.
Conclusions: After ACL reconstruction in 27 basketball players, 22% did not return to a sanctioned NBA game. For those returning to play, performance decreased by more than 1 PER point in 44% of the patients, although the changes were not statistically significant relative to the comparison group.
Level of evidence: Level IV, therapeutic case series.