Bottom line: Expect full return to play by the start of team activities for the 2020-21 season. Most players experience a decline in performance in the first year after injury – which Thompson will not be playing in – but a return to baseline by season 2. Re-injury rate is low, but there may be some long-term damage to the knee depending on what structures (cartilage or meniscus) in the joint were injured along with the ACL.
Injury: ACL Tear
Date of Injury: 6/13/19
Date of Surgery: 7/2/19
Analysis in Detail:
Return to Play
Return rate amongst NBA players is 85% in an average of 10 months post-injury. Thompson is progressing according to plan, but has been ruled out for the 2019-20 season. Expect full return well before the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
Most studies support a decline in performance in the first year after injury, with return to near-baseline performance in seasons 2 and 3. Thompson will have sat out his first post-injury year, so data suggests that he is likely to return to his prior level of performance at some point during the 2020-21 season.
Recurrence rate of ACL tear in NBA players is low (~3%), but it is possible to sustain injuries to important structures inside the knee – such as the cartilage lining the bones or the meniscus (shock absorbing tissue) – at the time of ACL tear. Such details weren’t made public in this case, but have the potential to surface as longer-term issues towards the end of Thompson’s career. In the short-term, we expect him to return fully healthy and without durability concerns.
Image Source: Keith Allison, CC BY-SA 2.0