To investigate return to play (RTP) and functional performance after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) in National Basketball Association (NBA) players and to perform a systematic review of the literature to understand RTP after ACLR in professional basketball.
NBA players undergoing ACLR between 2008 and 2014 by two surgeons were identified. RTP and performance were assessed based on a review of publically available statistics. A systematic review of the literature was performed using the MEDLINE database. Inclusion criteria were: English language, ACL surgery outcome, professional basketball and RTP outcome. We reviewed studies for RTP rates and RTP performance.
Our study included 12 professional basketball players with NBA level experience. Eleven of the 12 players returned to their prior level of play. Eight of the 9 (88.9%) players actively playing in the NBA returned to play in the NBA at a mean 9.8 months. Among players returning to NBA play, during RTP season 1, mean per game statistics decreased for the following: minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers and personal fouls – none of these changes reached statistical significance. Player efficiency ratings significantly declined from pre-injury (12.5) to the first RTP season (7.6) (p = 0.05). By RTP season 2, player performance metrics approximated pre-injury levels and were not significantly different. Six studies met inclusion criteria; reported RTP rates ranged from 78-86%. Identified studies similarly found a decline in functional performance after RTP.
There is a high rate (89%) of return to NBA play for NBA players undergoing ACLR. After RTP, however, there is a quantitative decline in initial season 1 RTP statistics with a significant decrease in player efficiency rating. By RTP season 2, performance metrics demonstrated an improvement compared to RTP season 1 but did not reach pre-injury functional performance, though performance metrics are not significantly different between pre-injury and RTP season 2.