By Jeremy BradenApril 5, 2013
Here's a pop quiz: What sport leads all others in injuries for troops in combat theaters? The answer may surprise you - it's basketball. Nearly 300 basketball-related accidents were reported to the U.S. Army Combat Readiness/Safety Center between fiscal 2008 and 2012, and the cost associated with those accidents was more than $1.5 million! And it's no secret that many more basketball injuries go unreported. I realized anyone is susceptible to these injuries when I became a victim of the hoop demon during my second tour in Iraq.
We'd just returned from a patrol when some of the guys started a game. I changed into my physical fitness uniform, walked back to the court and sat with the others, waiting for my turn to play. Once I got into the game, it was a nice change of pace from being on patrol. When one of my teammates knocked away the ball, I chased after it to keep it from going out of bounds. Little did I know that another player had the same idea. As we both reached for the ball, we bumped heads.
He was OK, but I got the worst of it. Above my right eye, blood started trickling down onto my face. One of the medics came over and looked at the cut and told me to head to the aid station. At first, I objected but eventually relented. I figured, "Who am I to argue with the guy who took care of us?"
We got to the aid station and talked to the surgeon, who turned out to be a fellow Kentuckian. He gave me an ice-cold Ale-8 (a Kentucky soft drink) and told me he'd need to sew up my injury. Five stitches and a bandage later, the medic and I walked back to our rooms. Luckily, stitches were the extent of my injury treatment and I got to stay in the fight. However, sometimes a "harmless" basketball game leads to more serious injuries, including broken bones and pulled muscles.
Many times, a game of basketball turns into battle ball. Some folks think they can take out their anger on a supervisor or co-worker, and Soldiers and games get pretty heated. That shouldn't be the case. Extracurricular sports should be for relaxation - to take one's mind off the things outside the wire.
Supervisors need to keep an eye on troops or workers playing sports, maintaining order and intervening when an activity gets heated. However, never get involved in an altercation. Even as a Soldier or worker, you should not be hostile toward co-workers. You have enough to worry about while deployed.
Finally, always warm up properly. Many people think they can jump right into a game and end up getting injured. Stretch your legs and arms and warm up your ankles with some moves similar to those you'll be doing in the game. Taking a few minutes to get your body prepared for physical activity can help you avoid the hoop demon.
In 2010, sports and exercise were the third leading cause of unintentional injury hospitalizations for the active non-deployed Army. Data from a survey of active-duty Soldiers showed that more than half (59 percent) are injured each year (Status of Forces Survey, 2008). Almost 30 percent of Soldiers have an injury from sports, exercise and recreational activity. Sports and exercise are the leading cause of non-battle injuries that were air evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-2010). Basketball, physical training, football and weightlifting are the four leading sports/exercise activities that resulted in injuries that were air evacuated. In numerous field investigations conducted by the U.S. Army Public Health Command, physical training and sports were the most frequent cause of injury that resulted in sick-call visits and limited duty days.
Editor's note: Information provided by Keith Hauret, Epidemiologist in the USAPHC Injury Prevention Program.