The Wichitan

Basketball concussions on the rise

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Samantha Forester

Staff Writer

Basketball is a constantly evolving contact sport. Concussions in basketball put players at high risk for short and long-term head trauma effects.

“There is a greater risk once you have had one concussion,” university physician, Keith Williamson said. “Look at Muhammad Ali for example, how much was boxing to blame?”

Boxing, football and soccer allow more contact than basketball. In the last few decades however, the game and players are changing, which is contributing to the dangers of concussions.

Contrary to the degree of contact seen in men’s basketball, there is equal number if not more, in women’s basketball. According to a study by the National Athletic Trainers Association of all divisions of the NCAA sports, there is an increase of head and facial injuries in basketball by an annual average of 6.2 percent.

Of all the injuries reported 3.6 percent were concussion related. The study also showed women basketball players were three times more likely to get a concussion than men.

“Any contact sport puts you at risk for a concussion,” Williamson said. “Sports are inherently at risk activity, you recognize it and accept it. We are now seeing more contact in women’s sports.”

The women’s basketball team has had its own share of concussion experience with players. Skyler Warrick, a junior in mass communication, plays forward for the Mustangs and is no stranger to concussions herself.

“With the first one I thought I was having an off day, and it just kept getting worse,” Warrick said. “My first concussion was my freshman year in the second week of workouts during a block out drill.”

Warrick has sustained four concussions in her college basketball career and is familiar with the rigorous testing that is required before a player is cleared.  Typically, for a concussion to be diagnosed, the player is asked a series of questions and then put through a series of balance exercises.

“After a player concusses, there should be a side-line evaluation,” Williamson said. “If you concuss in a game you should not go back in the game.”

A balance test would include standing on one leg with eyes open then closed or lifting both arms. Some of the exercises are similar to a sobriety test and ironically the symptoms of a concussion are similar to inebriation.

“There are several signs and symptoms; disorientation, physical skill, nausea, ability to articulate and the content of speech,” Williamson said. “The obvious would be unconsciousness but also visual accuracy and amnesia are other signs as well.”

Warrick has experienced symptoms such as these however her first few concussions neglected proper diagnoses right away. Her first concussion she was elbowed in the face, immediately following this her head hit the floor, then the player who elbowed her fell on top of Warrick’s head.

“The day after my first concussion I ran all of practice, by the end of the day I couldn’t walk straight,” Warrick said.

Later in practice Warrick ran into a wall and fell. The coach approached her to scold her for falling, and then she realized something was wrong.

“I did not do well in any of the balance test,” Warrick said. “At practice when running my head felt like it was going to explode.”

This was only the beginning to multiple concussions, Warrick would sustain in her first three years of college basketball. Warrick is no longer allowed to play unless she is wearing a protective helmet, which has become her signature as a Mustang.

“I am not as self-conscious of my head hitting anything, now I can play without worrying about it,” Warrick said. “A downside of the helmet is it is hard to hear because the helmet has small holes and it is hot.”

Other college teams are also taking preventative measures with their players who have sustained concussions. The University of Louisville men’s basketball team uses helmets during practice. The team’s trainer, Fred Hina, made the decision for the team as a precaution.

We are just trying to be proactive and keep our multiple concussions down to a minimum, limit our risk Hina said. It may be overkill, but I really think you are going to see it more and more with the focus being on head injuries he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

These helmets are not mandatory for the whole team but Hina is smart in taking such preventative measures.

Warrick is the only player for the women’s basketball team that is required to wear a helmet while playing, however, she does see a positive side to it all.

“I call it my crown because I am the queen of concussions,” Warrick said. “When I walk in the gym with it on, all eyes are on me and I like the attention because people think who is this girl in the helmet?”

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Basketball concussions on the rise