While all the focus is on football there are other sports that have the ability to create the injury we know as a concussion. In fact all of them can but one sport in particular may be lurking in the shadows, basketball. It arguably has some of the highest participation levels in all of sport, from the multi-million dollar professional, to the high school level, to pre-K participation and even the rec-league pick up game at your local court or church. It is most definitely time to look at the sport of basketball.
Basketball does have its inherent risks associated with head injury; flying elbows, knocking heads and even making contact with the floor. On Thursday Jeremiah Rivers of Indiana University was led into a screen while playing defense and his head made contact with Mike Tisdale of the University of Illinois, causing Rivers to double over and remain stunned for a short time. That would be an obvious situation where your head would be in danger on the hardwood. The not so obvious is the surface they play on, typically a neatly painted (Oregon not withstanding) shiny court made of hard wood. Let us examine a specific example of how the hardwood could cause a problem.
Demitri McCamey is perhaps the best and most talented player on the University of Illinois basketball team, he is averaging the most minutes (33.2) and most points (15.1) per game. Coach Bruce Weber has told whoever wants to listen that as a senior McCamey is the leader of the Fighting Illini, but is having that leader “tag” making McCamey do more things than he is capable of? Could the pressure from the fans, peers and coaches be helping D-Mac make a bad decision?
I am not eluding to taking a bad shot, or passing to the wrong player, rather could there be something else going on?
On Jan 18th the Ilini faced Michigan St. at home in a game where the team was debuting some new threads, and to delight of the crowd the team responded and played a good game. However early in the second half (with 18 plus min remaining) he fell and hit his head on the court.
Some sources of mine that were in attendance said they could hear his head hit the court many rows up in the stands. That and the immediate reaction of him to grab his head leads us, through observation, that perhaps his head did make contact with the floor. After that incident McCamey scored 6 points the rest of the way in that game. Regardless if he hit his head on the court as some heard/saw, his head violently was shaken due to the abrupt change in momentum allowing physics take over.
Will Carroll an injury analyst for various outlets, mainly focusing on the fantasy sports aspects, had this to say, “I’ve been stunned at the numbers we’ve seen in basketball for concussions. It’s problematic mostly because there’s such high participation numbers at all levels, from little kids up to collegiate athletes. Worse, there’s no simple solution for the problem the way there is for football and baseball.”
Next up for the Illini was #1 Ohio St. and McCamey had a very “off” game according to observers and himself. McCamey attributed his poor performance on some “early missed shots” and the outstanding defense of the Buckeyes. His stat line for that game included 31 minutes and just 5 points.
Thursday night was a road trip to Indiana and again McCamey seemed not himself and his stat line shows just this as he was nine points under his average, netting just 6 points and he did this with an increase in minutes to 35.
From time to time I see players, at the high school I work at, “hide” the injury thinking that missing games is “weak” or not necessary for a “little” headache. Sometimes the leaders of the basketball teams I work with do not disclose that they are hurting because it will harm their “leader” status on the team. But playing with any injury that is not properly cared for, most poignantly a concussion, can delay recovery and lead to lasting effects. With an ankle those observing can clearly see that there is a limp or lack of explosion, but with a concussion there are subtle signs, like missing a defensive assignment, or a severe drop in play/performance. Trying to play through injuries (insert concussions) is not only a bad idea because of recovery issues, but being out there the other four players are relying upon you to be at your best and expected level. Without a player performing at their 100% they are hurting the entire team, not just themselves.
There is no way to know what is happening to the Illini’s star player, but something is just not right from this amateur observer. We hope that McCamey shakes off his woes soon enough to provide a lift for our (my) favorite college hoop team. If there is something going on, speaking up about the issue may be what leadership is about.