If you had to guess, what would you say is the most life threatening of the following sports: A) college football; B) college basketball; C) Iditarod Sled Dog Racing; or D) Major League Baseball? According to a new study by Dr. Kimberly Harmon and scientists at the University of Washington-Seattle, the correct answer is…wait for it….B. The intriguing study – which was detailed in the Alaska Dispatch – demonstrates that college basketball carries the highest risk of death compared with any other sport.
Generally speaking, college athletes face a one-in-43,700 chance of dying from a cardiac event each year. Male athletes, however, face a one-in-33,134 risk, while black athletes face a significantly higher one-in-17,796 risk. Most shockingly, “males playing Division I college basketball, with its high-speed, stop-and-go action, face a 1-in-3,126 risk” of death. That is crazy. In terms of risk, basketball is (by far) the deadliest, followed by swimming, lacrosse, football, and then cross-country.
To reduce the risk of cardiac death, the study suggests using electrocardiographic (ECG) screening in athletes before they play college sports to help identify weaknesses in their heart. That said, the use of ECG screening is somewhat controversial; while the International Olympic Committee endorses it, the American Heart Association recommends a physical exam due to cost-effectiveness. You would think that a 1,000-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska in winter wilderness conditions with a pack of animals would be much riskier than some 40-minute college basketball game. But in fact, it is ten times safer than a young, black guy shooting hoops in an ACC game.
And I guess it makes sense. The incredible endurance you need to play basketball, the frequent and concentrated bursts of energy that it requires, must be so taxing on the heart. I find it intriguing, however, that we rarely hear about the risks involved with basketball. Instead, we hear about the terrible concussions and brain damage associated with football. I wouldn't hesitate to sign my future children up for basketball, but I am pretty sure that I would try to steer them away from football, if possible. Even with this new study, I still feel like basketball is safer. Right or wrong, we have been conditioned over the last few years to fear the dangers of the gridiron above all else.
I would be lying if I said I am a big Iditarod fan. I sure as hell can't spell it and I am not sure I can even pronounce it correctly. But it seems grueling. 1,000 fucking miles by sled, really? I just can't follow a sport that is not covered outside of Alaska (or Russia, if they can see the race from their front porch). Not to mention that I feel badly for the poor dogs. There are not enough Scooby Snacks in the world to make that adventure worth the risk. Then again, I would pretty much say the same thing about playing for Roy Williams.