Background: A complete rupture of the Achilles tendon is a devastating injury. Variables affecting return to competition and performance changes for National Basketball Association (NBA) players are not readily evident.
Hypothesis: Players in the NBA who ruptured their Achilles tendons and who underwent surgical repair would have more experience in the league, and the performance of those who were able to return to competition would be decreased when compared with their performance before injury and with their control-matched peers.
Study design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: Data for 18 basketball players with Achilles tendon repair over a 23-year period (1988-2011) were obtained from injury reports, press releases, and player profiles. Variables included age, body mass index (BMI), player position, and number of years playing in the league. Individual season statistics were obtained, and the NBA player efficiency rating (PER) was calculated for 2 seasons before and after injury. Controls were matched by playing position, number of seasons played, and performance statistics. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to assess the effect of each factor.
Results: At the time of injury, the average age was 29.7 years, average BMI was 25.6, and average playing experience was 7.6 years. Seven players never returned to play an NBA game, whereas 11 players returned to play 1 season, with 8 of those players returning for ≥2 seasons. Players who returned missed an average of 55.9 games. The PER was reduced by 4.57 (P = .003) in the first season and by 4.38 (P = .010) in the second season. When compared with controls, players demonstrated a significant decline in the PER the first season (P = .038) and second season (P = .081) after their return.
Conclusion: The NBA players who returned to play after repair of complete Achilles tendon ruptures showed a significant decrease in playing time and performance. Thirty-nine percent of players never returned to play.
Keywords: Achilles tendon rupture; NBA players; National Basketball Association; athletic performance; outcome measure.