Doctors help NCAA players avoid concussions, other neurological injuries

HOUSTON – Dr. Kenneth Podell is serving as a neuropsychologist for the Final Four games, helping the NCAA basketball players keep their heads safely in the game by consulting on their concussion plans.

“They have to have a written plan of assessment for concussions, diagnosis for concussions, emergency treatment plan in case there's a neck injury or bleeding on the brain,” Dr. Kenneth Podell, a Houston Methodist neuropsychologist, said.

Many people do not associate concussions with basketball, but they happen and the rate of recurring concussions is actually higher in basketball than in several other sports.

“You can see men's basketball it's about (a) 13 percent rate,” Podell said, pointing to data of recurring concussions in sports. “You have to think about numbers. So how many on a football team? Forty-five. How many on a basketball team? Twelve. So one recurring incident in basketball gives a very high percentage versus one in football.”

Podell says the takeaway for all athletes is whether it's an elbow to the head, head to head or the long way down from head to floor, assessing the diagnosis early is key.

“The first thing they're always interested in is there a neurological or spine injury?” he said. “If a concussion is diagnosed, they're done.”