The gruesome leg injury sustained by sophomore guard Kevin Ware during the Elite Eight contest between the Louisville Cardinals and the Duke Blue Devils was enough to turn many stomachs.
“I went over and I was going to help him up and then all of a sudden, I saw what it was and I almost literally threw up,” Ware’s coach Rick Pitino said, according to espn.com.
As brutal as it was, this type of injury is a very rare occurrence and ironically highlights a couple of basketball’s greatest strengths.
Basketball is an intimate, up close and personal sport.
The moment of Ware breaking his right leg in two places with the bone protruding from the skin, and the tense, heart-wrenching minutes that followed, showed what an intimate experience watching basketball can be. Unlike sports where players wear helmets and pads that resemble body armor, basketball is a sport where players’ faces and heads are showing, as well as much of their bodies, tattoos and all. Everything is up-close-and-personal when watching basketball. We can see the expressions on the players’ faces and a coach blinking back tears. Because the players are so visible, there is a familiarity that connects the fans to the players.
Jack Nicholson, a Los Angeles Lakers fan, can sit at courtside and literally have a chat with a player or give a player a high-five. The close proximity of the fans to the players gives basketball a family atmosphere and soap opera quality that other sports don’t have.
Basketball has rules restricting contact and this limits injuries.
Although basketball is a rugged, physical game, the rules governing the sport limit the amount of contact a player will be subjected to. American football is grappling with the issue of concussions and the long-term ill effects of head injuries. However, it sure doesn’t stop there. Blocking and tackling are the nuts and bolts of football, and this leaves players vulnerable to blown out knees and broken bones. After examining the latest data on football injuries, many parents may hesitate to allow their children to partake of the sport. This in turn may lead to far fewer youngsters growing up watching football because a prime motivation for tuning in at that age is to try to emulate the techniques of a professional who is playing your position on the field. Many adult fans watch football to monitor the progress of their bets, but many younger fans watch to learn how to play the sport.
Hockey is another contact sport that is dealing with concussions. Hockey players must navigate many sharp and dangerous objects; sticks, the puck, goal posts, skates, elbows, the glass, the boards, and the ice surface itself. Just recently the NHL’s biggest name, Sidney Crosby, broke his jaw and lost several teeth when hit by a deflected puck traveling at a high speed. Many hockey players make several offerings to the tooth fairy during their careers. Crosby also lost much of the two previous seasons to concussions and their aftermath. No sport can afford to have its marquee player sidelined in this way for such a great length of time. Fighting is also permissible in hockey and that puts players at even greater risk of concussions and other injuries.
In basketball, referees whistle fouls and flagrant fouls to keep the sport from getting too rough or too dangerous. A basketball player needs to be as strong as a weightlifter but as nimble as a ballerina. This combination of strength, power, speed, quickness and flexibility helps to elevate the sport of basketball to an aesthetically pleasing level. As Ware recovers from his frightening injury, it should be kept in mind how rare such an injury is. Parents should be reassured that basketball is a safe, artistic and beautiful sport for their children to play.