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Basketball Brain Injuries in Youth Sports

In recent years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the concussion injuries in football. Many have written about the lawsuit(s) by the former NFL players, and been somewhat vocal about disapproval of how the current commissioner of the league, Roger Goodell, handled the initial awareness about concussion related injuries.  Only, after the NFL proposed a settlement, and former players seemed to be somewhat satisfied, concussion injuries in football seemed to become seen by many as a risk that was simply part of the game.  If you want to play, you are going to be at risk for injury, and as long as the NFL continues to do all it can to safeguard its players, and the players’ union has the players’ backs, then things are okay, right?

The other day I got a call from a friend, and he mentioned that he was in the hospital with his teenage son, who happened to have suffered an injury while playing basketball.  “He may have a concussion,” my friend said.  Later on when I checked to see how my friend’s son was doing, I was informed that the hospital was going to hold him over night to monitor the situation, and he mentioned a possible CT scan.  Wow, all this from a basketball injury?  Are you surprised?  My friend was.  In fact, the next day, he texted me to ask me if I’d ever written about concussions in youth sports, and in particular concussion injuries in basketball, to which I replied, “No, I have not.”

My friend’s son plays varsity basketball for a high school basketball team in New Jersey.   

My friend’s son is not the first player to be injured while playing basketball, and there are far more head injuries to those who play football, but it’s important to remember that just because one is engaged in basketball, as opposed to football, that they are not at risk to head trauma.  This is simply not the case.  Back on 2010, Tara Parker-Pope write a story, published by the NY Times blog, “In Basketball, Danger of Head Trauma” which detailed how a 12-year-old girl was “shooting the ball when a defender tried aggressively to block her shot.  The two players made contact and Nicole hit the floor headfirst.” Nicole’s diagnosis, after being taken to the hospital, was a concussion, which the article states was (and still is) “an increasingly common injury in youth basketball, particularly among girls, yet one that has yet to gain widespread attention.” One of the interesting points brought up in the article was that Nicole’s mother was aware of concussion related injuries in sports, and was mindful but never connected basketball as a sport that might be concussion prone, because it was Nicole’s soccer not basketball playing that was considered the more concussion-prone sport.  Somehow, although I’ve not done any true scientific study and my research is pretty much a random sample of those I know, I have a feeling that Nicole’s mom was not alone in her thinking that its soccer, that would be the more dangerous, because people seem to consider basketball relatively safe.

The NY Times article did point to a study done in 2007, which indicated that about “4 percent of youth basketball injuries were to the head, about double the number of such injuries reported by emergency rooms in 1997.”  It’s important to note, that just because there is a rise in reporting, does not mean there is a rise in the injuries because it could be that back in 1997, people did not seek medical assistance and there was less concern with reporting.

This is the first of a series of articles that will focus on basketball and concussions.  If you would like to contribute information about the subject to Michelle, please email here at  Of particular interest include potential long term affects, protocols, and overall risk management for youth who play basketball.  

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Michelle has been a sports writer and analyst for many years. Now, as host of Neutral Court, sponsored by In The Zone, Michelle brings a new sports topic to the debate floor with each episode.
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