Athletic performance outcomes following lumbar discectomy in professional basketball players.
STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective case-control study. OBJECTIVE: To quantify the athletic performance profiles after lumbar discectomy (LD) in a cohort of National Basketball Association (NBA) players in comparison with a control group of matched NBA players who did not undergo LD during the same study period. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA: LD provides symptomatic relief and improved functional outcomes in the majority of patients as assessed by validated measures such as Oswestry Disability Index, Visual Analog Scale, and Short Form-36 (SF-36). Among professional athletes, however, the goal of lumbar HNP treated by discectomy is not only to improve functional status but also, ultimately, to return the player to preinjury athletic performance levels. No study to date has compared the athletic performance profiles before and after discectomy in professional athletes. METHODS: An analysis of NBA games summaries, weekly injury reports, player profiles, and press releases was performed to identify 24 NBA players who underwent LD for symptomatic lumbar HNP between 1991 and 2007. A 1:2 case: control study was performed using players without history of lumbar HNP who were matched for age, position, experience, and body mass index as control subjects (n = 48). Paired t tests were conducted on the following parameters: games played, minutes per game, points per 40 minutes, rebounds per 40 minutes, assists per 40 minutes, steals per 40 minutes, blocks per 40 minutes, and shooting percentage. For each athletic performance outcome, between-group comparisons evaluating preindex to postindex season performance were done (index season = season of surgery). RESULTS: In the LD group, 18 of 24 players (75%) returned to play again in the NBA, compared with 42 of 48 players (88%, P = 0.31) in the control group. One year after surgery, between-group comparisons revealed statistically significant increase in blocked shots per 40 minutes in the LD (0.18) versus control group (-0.33; P = 0.008) and a smaller decrease in rebounds per 40 minutes in the LD (-0.25) versus control group (-1.42; P = 0.049). No other performance variable was found to be significantly different between the study and control group. CONCLUSION: Compared with a closely matched control cohort, we found that 75% of surgical patients returned to play again in the NBA, compared with 88% in control subjects who did not undergo surgery. For those players who returned, overall athletic performance was slightly improved or no worse than control subjects.
Anakwenze, OA; Namdari, S; Auerbach, JD; Baldwin, K; Weidner, ZD; Lonner, BS; Huffman, GR; Sennett, BJ
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