Effect of Shoulder Stabilization on Career Length and Performance in National Basketball Association Athletes


Untreated episodes of shoulder instability can have major consequences on athletic careers. Operative shoulder stabilization reduces the rate of recurrent instability and allows for high rates of return to sport (RTS). Basketball players who experience an episode of instability have high rates of recurrence, though little is known about postoperative player performance. The purpose of this study was to identify the impact of shoulder instability and surgical stabilization on player performance and career lengths in the National Basketball Association (NBA).


NBA players who had episodes of shoulder instability between 1994-2014 were identified using the NBA Injury Surveillance and Analytics Database. Players were stratified according to operative versus nonoperative treatment of shoulder instability. Two demographic- and performance-matched controls were chosen for each test subject. Univariate analyses were used to compare pre- and postoperative player performance metrics. Survival analysis was used to assess the effect of shoulder surgery on postoperative career lengths.


Fifty athletes were identified, 46 (92.0%) returned to play in the NBA. Compared to controls, there was no significant difference in postoperative performance according to either 1- or 3-year averages. Survival analysis demonstrated no significant difference in postoperative career lengths between athletes with a history of shoulder surgery for instability and matched controls.


NBA players return to professional basketball in high numbers following orthopedic surgery for shoulder instability. Shoulder instability may not be a career-altering event, as there are highly effective methods of shoulder stabilization available to athletes.

 2019 Dec;77(4):223-229.