Youth Basketball Concussions

Basketball is a sport played in a physically defined space with players in a constant state of motion so collisions are no big surprise. James Naismith designed as a no / low contact game but that changed decades ago. Elements of the game like blocking out, rebounding, screens, picks and playing defense are physical, sometimes real physical. When the game is played indoors the floor is hardwood, as in hard wood. When it is played outdoors it will be on a hard surface like asphalt or concrete. Ever fall on concrete? Not like you’re going to bounce. Young players are bigger and stronger than previous generations. They might have the coordination but grace is lacking and the skill level continues to slip and that creates a problem.
In today’s games collisions are going to be more violent and happen more frequently. One player sets a hard pick and the other player hits the floor. In most cases the second player bounces back up and they’re back in the flow of the game. Unfortunately, there are times where that second player hits their head on the court and that is when the real problems start.
Recent studies indicate that more and more young athletes get admitted to Emergency Rooms for traumatic brain injuries sustained while playing basketball. Over the last decade the number of cases of basketball-related traumatic brain injury has increased by 70 percent among children. This includes concussions, head fractures and internal head injuries. During the same time period there was a 22% decline in the total number of basketball-related injuries.
One school of thought is convinced that increased awareness, recognition, and treatment of traumatic brain injuries is why the statistics are different. Another school of thought believes that increased intensity and competitiveness is part of the increase in injuries. The other part is the fact that children are playing competitive basketball at younger ages. In either case this is a problem and that problem can lead to issues later in life.
“Traumatic brain injury can have long-term impacts on young athletes. It can affect their heath, their memory, their learning and their survival,” said study author Lara McKenzie, principal investigator at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
McKenzie and her colleagues analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a nationally representative sample of about 100 hospital emergency departments in the United States.
They examined cases of basketball-related injuries in children ages 5 to 19 between 1997 and 2007.
Traumatic brain injury cases increased from 7,030 in 1997 to 11,948 in 2007. However, traumatic brain injuries might be underestimated because studies have shown that around a third of athletes don’t recognize concussion symptoms, or continue to play after they experience dizziness, the researchers said. And basketball related injuries as a whole might be underestimated, since the researchers only considered injuries treated at emergency departments, not other care centers.
Overall, more than 4 million basketball-related injuries were estimated to occur during this period. On average, there were 375,350 injuries per year.
  1. Tighter officiating. Referees have to take control of a game, especially when young kids and pre-teens are playing. Call fouls for anything more than incidental contact. Hard and intentional fouls are an automatic disqualification. Young bodies are not developed enough to handle that level of physical play. Hard fouls at that age are not cool. If a parent / coach is instructing players to play physical or worse have them removed from the building. If they are verbally abusive have them removed from the building. This has everything to do with potential head injuries. Children are impressionable and they will listen to a parental figure. A child listening to a loudmouth adult in the stands might think taking take that hard foul is a great idea. These games are supposed to be fun and a healthy form of exercise. Does an 8 year old have to play the game as if it were a Division I conference championship? I don’t think so.
  2. Parents and coaches need to learn the signs of a concussion which includes: confusion, dazed, loss of consciousness, changes to behavior, clumsy movement, changes to personality, cannot recall events after hit or fall, blurry vision, nausea, coordination and balance problems, loss of memory and feeling light headed. Very important; a child does not have to be knocked unconscious to suffer a concussion. As soon as you recognize that a child has suffered a concussion the child needs to be removed from the game and must get immediate medical attention from a physician or nurse practitioner. That means you drive your child to a hospital emergency room. It cannot wait.
  3. Learn how to manage the concussion. Rest and proper nutrition are critical. Follow the medical professional’s recommendations to the letter. Do not allow your child to participate in sports until they are medically cleared.
The following Infographic was created by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Please return to the top of the page and click the “Video” tab to watch Web Extras excellent video on Concussions in Basketball.