Nationally, the number of basketball injuries rose close to 10 percent between 2007 and 2010, according to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, which some experts attribute to the fast pace of the game.
The database, maintained by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Council, recorded a jump in those years from 481,011 to 528,584 injuries due to basketball.
Some experts said the rise is also due in part to an increase in the popularity of basketball as well as an increase in awareness about preventing and treating injuries.
“The numbers are not going up as much as you think. The awareness of injuries and sports medicines has gone up tremendously, and we are trying to keep players in as best shape as possible” said James W. Doran Jr., an assistant trainer at the University of Connecticut who treats its men’s basketball players.
He said the increasingly fast pace of the game is leading to more injuries and that the vast majority of injuries are accidental and due to unexpected collisions.
Bill LaBruna, who coordinates athletic training assignments for Hartford Hospital’s Eastern Rehabilitation Network, said he has seen an increase in injuries in the past five years as players play at an increasingly fast pace.
“They scramble out of bounds chasing a basketball and hit their heads on the stands,’’ he said. “Those wood or plastic stands are not forgiving.”
Increasing awareness is definitely leading to an increase in reports of injuries, he said. Twenty years ago, players would just try to play through an injury whereas now, coaches and players will report and treat injuries more often, he said.
“Athletes are more apt these days to seek help, which is great,’’ he said.
The most common injuries are knee or ankle injuries, Doran said. The college game is faster than high school basketball, and pro basketball is faster than at the college level, so trainers must provide more education about injuries at each level, he said.
“It’s huge,’’ Doran said. “The more athletes go from level to level, the more they need to be educated.”
Increasing attention is being paid to concussions across all sports.
“I don’t think the rate of concussions has gone up, but the rate of concussion awareness has gone up considerably in the last 8 to 10 years,” Labruna said.
Many retirees from the NFL have reported memory loss, and some have admitted to suicidal thoughts or committed suicide, perhaps because they have had concussions during their careers. The most recent player to speak out is Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Palamalu, who has said he lied about concussion tests just so he could get back out on the football field.
Concussions do not happen as often in high school, but they are just as serious.
Drew Bradley, a high school basketball player in East Lyme, suffered a concussion in June while diving for a loose ball. He described the symptoms.
“I had a bad headache for nearly two weeks and my vision was blurred as well for two weeks,’’ he said. “ I had some difficulty concentrating after the injury occurred but that only lasted about a week. I also had nausea related to the injury.”
Education, prevention and using the proper equipment can help reduce injuries, trainers said.
“Certain types of basketball shoes, specifically high-top shoes, can help with your ankle support.
That is why if any player wants to wear low-top basketball shoes I make sure they get their ankles taped before the game,’’ Doran said. “And other players, specifically big men, wear padding under their uniforms to help protect from a serious blow.”
Rob McCarthy is a junior at Cazenovia High School, Cazenovia, NY.