Return to Professional Basketball after Surgery

“In life there are no guarantees” and this is certainly the case with return to sport after surgical procedures.  Unfortunately, the commonly held belief is surgical repairs of muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. guarantees a return to sport at prior levels of play and competition.  The odds of returning to competitive levels of sport can be improved dramatically through pre and post operative Physical Therapy.   A new review article highlights the lower than expected odds of returning to high level basketball competition after orthopedic surgery.  

We assume professional athletes have a greater likelihood of returning to sports following surgery given their athletic gifts and high levels of resources directed at their care including money, time, and medical staffs.  A recent review article of close to 350 NBA basketball players was conducted to determine the likelihood of these athletes returning to high level play after surgery (Minhas et al. Am J Sp Med. 2016).  The return to sport ranged from 70% in achilles repairs to 98% after hand/wrist surgeries.  Across all procedures older (>30 years old) and heavier (BMI >27) athletes were 3 times less likely to return to sport.  In addition, those undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery or achilles tendon repairs suffered the greatest reduction in performance at both a 1 and 3 year follow up.    Athletes at greatest risk of decreased performance should work closely with a Physical Therapist to facilitate an optimal return to sport.