Background: Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture is a significant injury in National Basketball Association (NBA) players.
Hypotheses: NBA players undergoing ACL reconstruction (ACLR) have high rates of return to sport (RTS), with RTS the season following surgery, no difference in performance between pre- and postsurgery, and no difference in RTS rate or performance between cases (ACLR) and controls (no ACL tear).
Study design: Case-control.
Methods: NBA players undergoing ACLR were evaluated. Matched controls for age, body mass index (BMI), position, and NBA experience were selected during the same years as those undergoing ACLR. RTS and performance were compared between cases and controls. Paired-sample Student t tests, chi-square, and linear regression analyses were performed for comparison of within- and between-group variables.
Results: Fifty-eight NBA players underwent ACLR while in the NBA. Mean player age was 25.7 ± 3.5 years. Forty percent of ACL tears occurred in the fourth quarter. Fifty players (86%) RTS in the NBA, and 7 players (12%) RTS in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) or D-league. Ninety-eight percent of players RTS in the NBA the season following ACLR (11.6 ± 4.1 months from injury). Two players (3.1%) required revision ACLR. Career length following ACLR was 4.3 ± 3.4 years. Performance upon RTS following surgery declined significantly (P < 0.05) regarding games per season; minutes, points, and rebounds per game; and field goal percentage. However, following the index year, controls' performances declined significantly in games per season; points, rebounds, assists, blocks, and steals per game; and field goal and free throw percentage. Other than games per season, there was no significant difference between cases and controls.
Conclusion: There is a high RTS rate in the NBA following ACLR. Nearly all players RTS the season following surgery. Performance significantly declined from preinjury level; however, this was not significantly different from controls. ACL re-tear rate was low.
Clinical relevance: There is a high RTS rate in the NBA after ACLR, with no difference in performance upon RTS compared with controls.
Keywords: ACL; NBA; National Basketball Association; anterior cruciate ligament; knee injury.