Monday, September 13, 2010
A just-released study points to a a major rise in the number of kids suffering serious head injuries while playing basketball.
According to the study published today in the Journal Pediatrics, kid players 5 to 19 treated in hospital emergency departments for basketball-related traumatic brain injuries rose 70 per cent from 1997 to 2007.
Assuming this is right, why would that be? I got a call from a reporter Friday (the study was embargoed until today) wanting to discuss that and hear any theories I might have.
My first thought - shared by many, probably - is that heightened awareness about concussions is a large factor. There's been so much publicity about the unseen harms of concussions, not just lately but going back to the mid 2000s. I highly recommend this piece from 2007 written by Alan Schwarz of the New York Times. It's remarkable in showing how little attention coaches, parents and players were paying to head injuries.
A second theory. Were substantially more kids playing basketball in 2007 than in 1997? I haven't been able to answer that, not directly. As close as I've been able to come is to establish that there were many more kids playing high school sports at the end of that 10-year span than the start. Total participation for all high school sports grew from 6.3 million in 1997-98 to 7.4 million in 2007-2008.
Here are things I believe are NOT responsible: Kids are getting bigger and faster (not that much bigger and faster); referees are allowing more physical play (zero evidence supporting that); sportsmanship is in steep decline so more elbows are flying (even more far-fetched).
This isn't the first study to point out how ignorant we all were about head injuries in youth sports. Doubtful it will be the last