Temporal Trends and Severity in Injury and Illness Incidence in the National Basketball Association Over 11 Seasons

Orthop J Sports Med. 2021 Jun 14;9(6):23259671211004094. doi: 10.1177/23259671211004094. eCollection 2021 Jun.


Background: There is a paucity of current data describing injuries in professional basketball players. Utilizing publicly available injury data will allow for greater transparency for stakeholders to use the data as a shared resource to create future basketball injury prevention programs.

Purpose: To describe injury and illness incidence, severity, and temporal trends in National Basketball Association (NBA) players. Among those who develop time-loss injury or illness, we estimated severity based on games missed because of injury or illness.

Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: Publicly available NBA data were extracted through a reproducible computer-programmed process from the 2008 to 2019 seasons. Data were externally validated by 2 independent reviewers through other publicly available data sources. Injury and illness were calculated per 1000 athlete game-exposures (AGEs). Injury severity was calculated as games missed because of injury or illness. Injury and illness data were stratified by body part, position, severity (slight, minor, moderate, or severe), month, and year.

Results: A total of 1369 players played a total of 302,018 player-games, with a total of 5375 injuries and illnesses. The overall injury and illness incidence was 17.80 per 1000 AGEs. The median injury severity was 3 games (interquartile range, 0-6 games) missed per injury. Overall, 33% of injuries were classified as slight; 26%, as minor; 26%, as moderate; and 15%, as severe. The ankle (2.57 injuries/1000 AGEs), knee (2.44 injuries/1000 AGEs), groin/hip/thigh (1.99 injuries/1000 AGEs), and illness (1.85 illnesses/1000 AGEs) had the greatest incidence of injury and illness. Neither injury or illness incidence nor severity was different among basketball playing positions. Injury incidence demonstrated increasing incremental trends with season progression. Injuries were similar throughout the 11-year reporting period, except for a substantial increase in the lockout-shortened 2012 season.

Conclusion: The ankle and knee had the greatest injury incidence. Injury incidence was similar among basketball positions. Injury incidence increased throughout the season, demonstrating the potential relationship between player load and injury incidence.

Keywords: ankle; hip; injury prevention; knee; overtraining syndrome; player loading.