Background: Injury patterns in elite athletes over long periods continue to evolve. The goal of this study was to review of the injuries and medical conditions afflicting athletes competing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) over a 17-year period.
Design: Descriptive epidemiological study.
Methods: Injuries and player demographic information were reported by each team's athletic trainer. Criteria for reportable injuries were those that resulted in (1) physician referral, (2) a practice or game being missed, or (3) emergency care. The demographics, frequency of injury, time lost, and game exposures were tabulated, and game-related injury rates and 95% confidence intervals were calculated.
Results: A total of 1094 players appeared in the database 3843 times (3.3 ± 2.6 seasons). Lateral ankle sprains were the most frequent orthopaedic injury (n, 1658; 13.2%), followed by patellofemoral inflammation (n, 1493; 11.9%), lumbar strains (n, 999; 7.9%), and hamstring strains (n, 413; 3.3%). The most games missed were related to patellofemoral inflammation (n, 10 370; 17.5%), lateral ankle sprains (n, 5223; 8.8%), knee sprains (n, 4369; 7.4%), and lumbar strains (n, 3933; 6.6%). No correlations were found between injury rate and player demographics, including age, height, weight, and NBA experience.
Conclusion: Professional athletes in the NBA experience a high rate of game-related injuries. Patellofemoral inflammation is the most significant problem in terms of days lost in competition, whereas ankle sprains are the most common injury. True ligamentous injuries of the knee were surprisingly rare. Importantly, player demographics were not correlated with injury rates. Further investigation is necessary regarding the consequences and sport-specific treatment of various injuries in NBA players.
Clinical relevance: Knowledge of these injury patterns can help to guide treatments and provide more accurate guidelines for an athlete to return to play.
Keywords: National Basketball Association; basketball injuries; injury epidemiology.