Impact of Knee Injuries on Post-retirement Pain and Quality of Life: A Cross-Sectional Survey of Professional Basketball Players

  • Moin KhanEmail author
  • Seper Ekhtiari
  • Tyrrell Burrus
  • Kim Madden
  • Joseph P. Rogowski
  • Asheesh Bedi
Original Article



Professional basketball players are at increased risk for knee injuries. Epidemiologic data exist on the prevalence of such injuries in players in the National Basketball Association (NBA), but little is known about how these injuries affect athletes before after retirement.


The goals of this study were to evaluate the rates and characteristics of knee injury before and during NBA players’ careers and how those injuries correspond to knee injury, pain, or surgery, as well as quality of life, after retirement.


A cross-sectional survey study was performed. The survey instrument was designed with the aid of a multidisciplinary focus group. Data collected included patient demographics; length of professional career; injuries before, during, and after the athletes’ NBA careers; and post-retirement quality of life, assessed using the EQ-5D and Tegner Activity Scale. The survey was distributed electronically to 900 retired NBA athletes. Descriptive statistics were used to present means and proportions, and multiple regression analysis was performed to assess for potential factors correlated to injury.


One hundred eight retired NBA players participated (a response rate of 12%). Almost a third (32.4%) sustained a knee injury before starting their NBA career; 51 (47.2%) sustained knee injury during professional play in the NBA, and nearly two-thirds of those players (62.7%) needed surgery. Among those who reported knee injuries during their NBA career, a majority had knee pain that continued until retirement (72.5%). Two-thirds (67%) reported having knee pain currently (at the time of the survey). More than a third (34.0%) underwent knee surgery after retirement, which included nine total knee arthroplasties (8.3%).


A majority of retired NBA athletes in our study had knee pain, and many needed operative management during and after their NBA careers. NBA players score lower on quality-of-life measures than average North American men of similar age. Further research is needed to elucidate the best strategies for recognizing and treating knee injuries in these athletes.


NBA knee injury professional athlete basketball 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Moin Khan, MD, MSc, FRCSC, Seper Ekhtiari, MD, Tyrrell Burrus, MD, Kim Madden, MSc, PhD, AND Joseph P. Rogowski, MSc, ATC, CSCS, declare that they have no conflicts of interest. Asheesh Bedi, MD, reports receiving personal fees from Arthrex and stock or stock options from A3 Surgical, outside the submitted work.

Human/Animal Rights

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2013.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from survey respondents electronically before they completed the survey.

Required Author Forms

Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the online version of this article.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Hospital for Special Surgery 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.McMaster University, Department of Surgery50 Charleton Avenue EastHamiltonCanada

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