By Tank Spencer
In the aftermath of a bad Duke loss and a bout with dizzy spells by coach Mike Krzyzewski, as a Tar Heel fan, it is hard not to make jokes. "A loss to Wake Forest can leave anyone’s head spinning." There I said it, no more.
It does make you think about the great ones in the game and just what happens to their bodies night in and night out. I’m not talking about the players, the coaches. Coach K has had this happen before. UNC’s Roy Williams suffers from these mini-blackouts and dizzy spells on the sidelines as well. With the discussions about head trauma and brain injury in sports, I’m curious as to the connection – if any - between stress and long-term brain injury.
Two of the greatest coaches in basketball history are, by all accounts, fading into oblivion suffering from dementia. UNC legend Dean Smith and Tennessee basketball goddess Pat Summitt were passionate on and off the court and there is little doubt as to why they finished their careers as the winningest coaches of all time. Charlotte writer Tommy Tomlinson wrote a heart-breaking piece this week about the struggles Dean has. I couldn’t make it through the whole thing out of general disgust for the situation and disease.
After doing a search of stress and brain injury, I came upon a study that may have some relevance. The study by Amy Arnsten, professor of neurobiology at Yale University, speaks of stress releasing an enzyme into the brain that can cause damage. What we know from the NFL head injury discussion is that repeated “small” damage can lead to long term problems.
So is an emotional blow up on the court, comparable to a hard hit in football? I’m obviously no doctor, but common sense might lead you to that conclusion.