Concussions in NCAA Basketball: They’re More Common Than You Think

It’s March Madness time, the finest spectacle of college basketball. 68 teams compete in an 18-day tournament to be crowned NCAA Division I champions.

When you think of a college basketball injury, you probably think of a sprained ankle, torn ACL or maybe even a dislocated finger. But new research indicates that basketball-related head injuries are on the rise.1

Concussions in the NCAA

In 2007, a study was published reporting the overall incidence of injuries among men’s basketball players in the NCAA from 1988 to 2004. The study showed that concussions accounted for 3.6% of all injuries reported during this period, with an overall injury incidence of 0.16 injuries per 1,000 athlete-exposures. An athlete exposure is defined as one athlete participating in either one game or one practice. More recently, a study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that concussions occurred 0.389 times per 1,000 athlete-exposures.2 To put that number in context, that is more concussions recorded than in the NCAA men’s soccer league.

Earlier this year, Audrey Holt, Missouri State senior forward, made national headlines when she decided to retire from college basketball after suffering her 14th concussion. Holt played in 95 games during her collegiate career and ranks 15th in her school’s history with 53 blocks.

Concussion Safety Protocol Checklist

The NCAA is now sharing a Concussion Safety Protocol Checklist with university health care administrators, which can be used to develop protocols for monitoring an athlete’s brain health. This comprehensive approach could be adaptable for most sport programs.


  1. Dick, R., Hertel, J., Agel, J., & Grossman, J. (2007). Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate men’s basketball injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, 1988-1989 through 2003-2004. Journal of Athletic Training, 42(2) 194-201.
  2. Zuckerman, S.L., Kerr, Z.Y., Yengo-Kahn, A., Wasserman, E., Covassin, T., & Solomon, G.S. (2015). Epidemiology of sports-related concussion in NCAA athletes from 2009-2010 to 2013-2014: incidence, recurrence, and mechanisms. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 43(11) 2654-62. doi: 10.1177/0363546515599634.

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