Return to sport and performance after microfracture in the knees of national basketball association players

Joshua D. Harris, David M. Walton, Brandon J. Erickson, Nikhil N. Verma, Geoffrey D. Abrams, Charles A. Bush-Joseph, Bernard R. Bach, Brian J. Cole

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Use of microfracture in the knees of National Basketball Association (NBA) players is controversial. Hypotheses: (1) There would be a high rate of return to sport (RTS) in NBA players following microfracture, (2) players would RTS the season following surgery, (3) preoperative player performance would not be significantly different on RTS, and (4) there would be no significant difference in RTS rate or postoperative performance in players undergoing microfracture in comparison with an age-, position-, NBA experience-, and performance-matched control group. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3. Methods: NBA players undergoing microfracture were evaluated. Age-, body mass index-, position-, NBA experience-, and performance-matched controls were selected from the NBA during the same years as those undergoing microfracture. An index year was selected (controls) to match the number of seasons of NBA experience in microfracture cases. RTS and performance were analyzed and compared between cases and controls. Student t tests were performed for analysis of within- and between-group variables. Results: Atotal of 41 NBA players underwent microfracture and were compared with 41 demographic- and performance-matched controls. Rate of RTS after microfracture was 73% in the NBA and 83% in professional basketball (NBA, D-league, and International Basketball Federation [FIBA]). Time to RTS in NBA was 9.20 + 4.88 months. Seventy-one percent (29/41) of players RTS the season following microfracture. Length of NBA career following microfracture (4.10 + 3.91 years) was not significantly different from controls. After microfracture, case athletes played fewer games per season and with fewer points and steals per game (relative to premicrofracture; P < .05). Performance was better in control (after index year) versus case players (after microfracture) with regard to points per game, games played per season, and field goal and free throw percentage (P < .05). Conclusion: Eighty-three percent of NBA players undergoing microfracture returned to professional basketball. Career length was not significantly different between players undergoing microfracture and controls. However, following microfracture, players competed in fewer games per season with fewer points and steals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2013


  • Articular cartilage
  • Basketball
  • Knee
  • Microfracture
  • NBA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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