Blog Entry

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

Posted on: April 28, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: April 28, 2011 11:57 am

Posted by Matt Norlander

Count this as a blog post I never anticipated on writing.

Turns out, college basketball is growing in danger insofar as said danger relates to sudden death. It has now been deduced that men playing Division I college basketball, on average, are more likely to succumb to heart failure than canines cruising across the terrain of Alaska.

College basketball is more deadly than the Iditarod.

And it doesn't appear to be close. The reason for this? All dogs go through pretty extensive health checks before and during the oft-misunderstood, annual dog-driven race each March in the Final Frontier. Meanwhile, to the south, young men are participating in a much more loved, embraced and celebrated March tradition -- and are facing a higher health risk while doing so.

The numbers for this conclusion came from Dr. Kimberly Harmon and her colleagues at the University of Washington. A link to some of her findings -- the research data pool was gleaned from 2004 to 2008 -- can be found here. And it goes beyond comparisons between humans and dogs. The team's research shows that men's Division I basketball players face the highest risk of sudden cardiac death (SDC). Among the statistics, here are the big ones:

There is a 1-in-43,700 chance a student-athlete will die from SCD each year. The male athletes face a 1-in-33,134 risk, and black athletes' chances increase to 1-in-17,796 odds. Female student-athletes have a 1-in-76,646 chance of dying each year.

Because of D-I basketball's speed, start-and-stop style, the critical number: 1-in-3,126. There are currently 344 Division I teams. With walk-ons, put each team at an average of 13 players. That's 4,472 young men. Men's hoops is the most dangerous, followed by swimming, lacrosse, football and cross-country runners.

Basketball players don't consistently know the strength or condition of their hearts. They're constantly playing, practicing, lifting weights, etc. With this ignorance, danger looms. That's because schools -- often because of cost -- don't mandate electrocardiographic screening prior to or during seasons. If they did, in most cases, cardiac-related deaths would be avoided, experts believe.
The death rate for an Iditarod sled dog, [Iditarod chief veterinarian Stu Nelson] said, now lies "somewhere between the death rate for humans engaged in jogging and those participating in cross country skiing," which would appear to make it about 10 times safer for a sled-dog to run the 1,000 mile race from Anchorage to Nome than for a young, black man to play Division I college basketball.
Look at Hank Gathers, a death that still stirs within the sport. Recently, we had Jeron Lewis, who died last year. Last month, at the high school level, Wes Leonard and Robert Garza both died after suddenly after unexpectedly collapsing on the court.

Harmon's conclusion is eye-opening, scary and worth paying close attention to. Her report ends with, "SCD is the leading medical cause of death and death during exercise in NCAA student-athletes. Current methods of data collection underestimate the risk of SCD. Accurate assessment of SCD incidence is necessary to shape appropriate health policy decisions and develop effective strategies for prevention."

Few things in college sports -- or sports, life in general -- are more harrowing than seeing an athlete collapse on the court, field, ice, etc. The deaths are happening more frequently than we think, and it's time universities across the country start putting mandatory electrocardiographic screening tests in place for every student-athlete.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: May 1, 2011
Posted on: May 1, 2011 10:44 am

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

It would be foolish to conclude that the Iditarod is safer for dogs than basketball is for humans. At least 142 dogs have died in the Iditarod, including two who froze to death in the brutally cold winds. Dogs routinely get terribly sick during the race. Unfortunately, dog deaths after the race go unreported.

We should remember that in sharp contrast to human basketball players, Iditarod dogs are forced to participate. They are hooked up to the sleds and made to run mile after grueling mile, often when they are tired sick and injured. Unlike basketball players, the dogs get no benefit from their involvement.

For more facts, go to the Sled Dog Action Coalition website, .

Since: Jun 22, 2008
Posted on: April 30, 2011 8:50 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

I would rather die instanly not knowing what hit be, than freeze my balls off in a snowdrift.

Since: Mar 17, 2010
Posted on: April 30, 2011 11:38 am

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

I agree that this is a stupid comparison.

The Iditarod routinely kills young, healthy dogs and it has to stop.  Six dogs died in 2009, bringing the total known to 142.  The dog deaths average nearly 4 a year.  Although no dogs died in this year’s Iditarod, more than half did not finish.  Of the 992 dogs who started, 542 did not finish, which is 55%. They are among the best-conditioned dogs in the world due to their training year-round, yet they are dropped due to injury, illness, exhaustion, or just not wanting to continue.  One musher scratched after one of her dogs collapsed while running.

The distance is too long, and the conditions and rough terrain too grueling for the dogs.  There are laws in at least 38 states against over-driving and over-working animals, which is exactly what the Iditarod does. The Alaska cruelty statue that would apply to the sled dogs was changed in 2008 to exempt them.

When the dogs are not racing or training they are each kept on a short chain, attached to their small enclosure.   This is considered inhumane and illegal in many communities.  Mackey’s Kennel is just one example (scroll down at the website to see the chains and enclosures):


The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Friends of Animals, In Defense of Animals, PETA, and Sled Dog Action Coalition want this race to end.  People concerned about animals should boycott this cruel race and contact the sponsors to end their support of it.  

Since: Jan 14, 2009
Posted on: April 29, 2011 11:52 pm
This comment has been removed.

Post Deleted by Administrator

Since: Dec 18, 2006
Posted on: April 29, 2011 5:53 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

Here is a classic example of someone twisting stats to support a postion. Nobody that I know of has ever died of playing basketball. They died because of health problems. Don't try to tell me that playing basketball is more dangerous that say motor sport racing or even football. Oh those poor souls, they died because they were hit in the face with a hard basketball pass.

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 7:03 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

Hey take a look at this site. there is a simple formula for blood volume related to height and weight.  Check it out and play with some of the numbers.  The increase in blood pressure is due to the overall surface area of the player the greater the size the greater the surface area hence greater the pressure you need to circulate the blood.  Unfortunatly the greater a person is away from the midline the greater the chance for medical related issues.

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:25 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

Is there even college basketball in Europe? I know there are pro leagues, but college? I doubt many African Americans go to European collgese. However, there are a lot of African Americans in the professional leagues. Many of the NCAA players who can't make the NBA go to Europe. I would assume the statistics would be similar for them in those leagues.

Since: Nov 6, 2009
Posted on: April 28, 2011 3:16 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

Compare the pool of athletes in Europe to the same in America, obviously there are no Africian American atheletes playing there.
Many African-Americans do actually go to Europe to play, but you are right, it is a much smaller percentage.
And of the African-European players (which are also few, but definitely some) I wonder if this issue is the same.

I'm interested in your comments about athlete size - it seems possible, but where are you finding that info?

Since: Jun 13, 2007
Posted on: April 28, 2011 2:38 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

An unfortunate truth is that the male Africian American athelete is by far at a greater risk to die from sudden cardiac death.  Compare the pool of athletes in Europe to the same in America, obviously there are no Africian American atheletes playing there.  In addition the prevelance of college age atheletes engaged in competative sports is at a much greater number in the United States.  Furthermore on average there is a much greater gap in the size of the American athelete vs the Europeons in the same sport.  Larger people create a much higher volume of blood creating a higher blood pressure which in turns creates greater stress on the heart.  Many of the atheletes that die suddenly from cardiac failure have an enlarged heart. screening through an eeg may so a heart arrythemia in some cases, but without a chest x-ray or other diagnostic tests many of this student atheletes still would go undiagnosed.  It is a sad state of affairs that while playing a game could result in death. 

Since: Sep 7, 2006
Posted on: April 28, 2011 1:50 pm

Study: college hoops more dangerous than Iditarod

This study shows it doesn't even prevent death.  We don't have socialized medicine here Sonic, we can't just add burden after burden on the tax-payer just because 1 out of 33,000 lives are affected...I'm sorry, it's just not cost effective to spend money on anything and everything that would cause death.

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