Athletic performance and career longevity following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in the National Basketball Association

Benjamin S. Kester*, Omar A. Behery, Shobhit V. Minhas, Wellington K. Hsu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Purpose: To identify the impact of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction on performance and career longevity for National Basketball Association (NBA) players. Methods: Seventy-nine players (80 knees) with acute ACL tears in the NBA between the 1984–2014 seasons, and 112 age, height, weight, and performance-matched controls were identified. Pre- and post-injury performance outcomes including seasons played, games played, games started, minutes per game, points per game, field goals, 3-point shots, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, personal fouls, usage percentage and player efficiency ratings were compared between cases and controls using independent samples t tests and Fisher’s exact tests. Results: Sixty-eight of seventy-nine players (86.1 %) returned to play in the NBA following ACL reconstruction. Mean length of post-operative play was 1.84 years shorter than matched controls (P = 0.001). There was a significantly higher rate of attrition from professional basketball for players with a history of ACL reconstruction (P = 0.014). In the first full season following surgery, players started in 15.5 fewer games (P = 0.001), they played in 17.3 fewer games (P < 0.001), and had combined player efficiency ratings 2.35 points lower (P = 0.001) when compared to matched controls. Over the length of their careers, players competed in 22.2 fewer games per season (P = 0.009). Conclusions: There is a high rate of return to sport in the NBA following ACL reconstruction, although playing time, games played, player efficiency ratings and career lengths are significantly impacted in the post-operative period. These data should be used to manage patients’ expectations regarding their abilities to return to elite levels of athletic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3031-3037
Number of pages7
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • ACL
  • Anterior cruciate ligament
  • NBA
  • National Basketball League
  • Return to sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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