Professional basketball players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) subject their lower extremities to significant repetitive loading during both regular-season and off-season training. Little is known about the incidence of lower extremity bony stress injuries and their impact on return to play and performance in these athletes.
Stress injuries of the lower extremity will have significant impact on performance.
All bony stress injuries from 2005 to 2015 were identified from the NBA. Number of games missed due to injury and performance statistics were collected from 2 years prior to injury to 2 years after the injury. A linear regression analysis was performed to determine the impact of injury for players who returned to sport.
A total of 76 lower extremity bony stress injuries involving 75 NBA players (mean age, 25.4 ± 4.1 years) were identified. Fifty-five percent (42/76) involved the foot, and most injuries occurred during the regular season (82.9%, 63/76), with half occurring within the first 6 weeks. Among players who sustained a fifth metatarsal stress fracture, 42.9% were unable to return to professional play. Players who sustained stress injuries had reduced play performance, specifically related to number of games played ( P = 0.014) and number of steals per game ( P = 0.004). Players who had surgery had significantly better performance at 2 years than those who were managed nonoperatively, independent of the type of injury (β = 4.561; 95% CI, 1.255-7.868).
Lower extremity bony stress injuries may significantly affect both short- and long-term player performance and career length. Stress injuries result in decreased player performance, and surgical intervention results in improved performance metrics compared with those treated using conservative methods.
Stress injuries result in decreased player performance, and surgical intervention results in improved performance metrics.