Entries in Basketball (5)


Pat Summitt to Keep Coaching Despite Dementia Diagnosis

J. Meric/Getty Images(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) -- Pat Summitt plans to keep coaching women's college basketball despite her diagnoses of early-onset dementia, she said.

In a statement to the University of Tennessee and her Lady Vol basketball team, Summitt. 59, said she would not let Alzheimer's-type dementia force her into early retirement.

"I love being your coach, and the privilege to go to work every day with our outstanding Lady Vol basketball student-athletes."

After months of memory lapses, Summitt recently visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., where doctors diagnosed her having with a rare form of Alzheimer's-type dementia that strikes people younger than 65, who often have a family history of Alzheimer's disease.

But the tough Tennessee native, who has won more games in her 36-year coaching career than any other college coach ever, won't give up easily.

"Obviously, I realize I may have some limitations with this condition, since there will be some good days and some bad days," she said. "For that reason, I will be relying on my outstanding coaching staff like never before."

Dementia risk increases with age. Alzheimer's disease -- the most common form of dementia -- affects up to half of people older than 85. But early-onset dementia poses special problems for younger, otherwise healthy people, many of whom balance busy jobs and young families.

"Learning about the disease when people have mild symptoms is very important in terms of planning the future, maximizing their ability to work and have appropriate supports in their jobs," said Dr. Steven DeKosky, a neurologist and dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

On top of taking care of business, people with early-onset dementia often take care of children or parents -- a commitment they may no longer be able to meet, DeKosky said.

Summitt's son Tyler, 20, called his mom's courage and honesty about her diagnosis inspiring.

"Pat Summitt is not only my mom but also an incredible role model and mentor for me," he said in a statement. "This will be a new chapter for my mom and I, and we will continue to work as a team like we always have done."

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's-type dementia, there are treatments. Drugs that block the breakdown of acetycholine -- the neurotransmitter released by the neurons that die off during the disease -- can help reduce symptoms. And behavioral interventions that keep the mind active may help build up a cognitive reserve to stave off severe symptoms.

The course of early-onset dementia is variable, so it's unclear how quickly or slowly Summitt's symptoms will progress.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NBA Teams that Touch the Most Win the Most

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(BERKELEY, Calif.) -- A pat on the back, a touch on the arm: could these be the keys to an NBA championship?  According to two scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, the answer is yes.

Michael Kraus and Dacher Keltner studied every team in the NBA and found that the teams that touched the most, won the most.

Toward the end of game three in the NBA finals, Miami Heat star Chris Bosh turns the ball over and is visibly unhappy exchanging words with a teammate.  He gets back on defense and gives that teammate, Dwyane Wade, two reassuring pats.

"There's one touch and another touch," said Kraus.  "It's one of those things where they're communicating, they're together, even though bad things are happening right now during the game."

Over the course of five games, the Dallas Mavericks lead the Miami Heat three games to two in the NBA finals.  As of game four in the best-of-seven series, the Mavericks were also winning in one key category: touches.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Dallas has had 250 "instances of televised contact" compared with Miami's 134.  The contact could be as simple as a high-five, as aggressive as a chest bump or as intimate as a butt slap.

"Touch instills trust," Keltner told ABC News.  "It contagiously spreads good will; it makes players play better on behalf of each other."

Off the court and in the lab, Kraus and Keltner have shown that humans have a remarkable ability to communicate emotions like love, sympathy, disgust and anger just by touching a stranger's forearm.  The findings hold true even if the person being touched can't see the person doing it.

Touch can trigger the release of oxytocin in the brain, a chemical that induces trust.  Researchers say anyone can use the power of trust in everyday life.

Studies have shown that waitresses who touch customers get better tips, doctors who touch patients receive more favorable reviews, and petition-gatherers who touch passersby get more signatures.

ABC News' Dan Harris decided to test the study on the streets by gathering signatures.  He found that 60 percent of the people he touched signed, compared with only 25 percent of the people he didn't touch.

There is one huge caveat.  Keltner cautions that there is a right time and place for everything.

"I mean, we always have to have common sense," he said.

When wielded wisely, touch has the potential to be very powerful.  And as if to prove this point, back in game three of the NBA finals, just minutes after Chris Bosh gave Dwyane Wade those two reassuring taps, Bosh hit the game-winning basket.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Enlarged Heart Killed High School Basketball Star

Thomas Northcut/Lifesize(FENNVILLE, Mich.) -- The sound of the swoosh ended a thrilling season of basketball at Michigan's Fennville High School, but the victory turned tragic when 16-year-old star athlete Wes Leonard collapsed on the gym floor after shooting the winning basket.

According to Dr. David A Start, the forensic pathologist and medical examiner of Ottawa County, the cause of death was cardiac arrest due to dilated cardiomyopathy -- an enlarged heart -- a condition that often goes unnoticed.

Leonard's game-winning layup, which earned two of his 21 points that game, led the undefeated Fennville Blackhawks to a 57-55 win over Bridgman High School. Teammates hoisted in him the air moments before he collapsed.

"Nobody knew for sure why he had collapsed and was suddenly on the floor," said Tim Breed, a spokesperson for Holland Hospital who was also at the game.

Suspecting possible heat exhaustion, people tried to and cool Leonard down with ice packs while waiting for the ambulance. Paramedics performed CPR and took Leonard to a defibrillator on the court. He was rushed by ambulance to nearby Holland Hospital, where he died two hours later at 10:40 p.m.

What led to Leonard's condition, which prevents the heart from efficiently pumping blood to the rest of the body, is unknown. According to the National Institutes of health, risk factors include heart disease or a family history of it, high blood pressure, vitamin or mineral deficiency, infections involving the heart muscle, and the use of certain drugs or medications.

Thirty percent of dilated cardiomyopathy cases are inherited, according to Dr. Steven Fowler, a cardiac electrophysiologist at the Cardiovascular Genetics Program at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Killed a High School Basketball Star Following Big Win?

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(FENNVILLE, Mich.) -- Celebration turned to tragedy Thursday night at a Michigan high school when 16-year-old Wes Leonard collapsed on the basketball court after scoring the game-winning shot in overtime, helping his team clinch a perfect season.

Paramedics took Leonard to a defibrillator on the Fennville High School court. Soon after he was rushed by ambulance to nearby Holland Hospital, where he died two hours later at 10:40 p.m., the Holland Sentinel reported.

The cause of death remains unclear. Hospital spokesman Tim Breed said an autopsy will likely be conducted.

Sudden death in young athletes is relatively rare, but a major concern among schools and professional organizations. It gained significant attention in 1990 with the death of 23-year-old Hank Gathers, a basketball star at Loyola Marymount University. Gathers died after collapsing on the court during a game against the University of California, Santa Barbara. A medical examiner determined that Gathers suffered from hypertophic cardiomyopathy -- an enlarged heart.

Efforts to develop more sensitive screening tests that could detect risk factors for sudden death, such as cardiomyopathy, are under way. In a study published in the March issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, recording the heart's electrical activity during exercise by electrocardiography had no effect on predicting young athletes' risk for cardiac arrest.

"A variety of cardiac disorders can result in sudden death during sport activity," wrote Dr. Alfred Bove, professor emeritus at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia in an accompanying editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. "These include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, long QT syndrome, and Brugada syndrome."

In an interview last week, Fennville coach Ryan Klinger told the Sentinel Leonard was recovering from the flu. Klingler told the Sentinel that Leonard took care of his body "better than probably anybody I've ever coached," adding that the teen spent "a lot of time on his own in the weight room."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Concussion Leaves 14-Year-Old Amnesic, Left-Handed

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SPANGLE, Wash.) -- After hitting her head during a high school basketball game, Mikayla Wilson lost her memory -- and became a leftie.

The 14-year-old from Spangle, Wash., was shoved to the ground after snatching a rebound during a high school basketball game.

"She didn't black out, she didn't grab her head in obvious injury," Wilson's dad, Michael, told ABC News affiliate KXLY 4. "She just got up and noticed her head hurt a little bit on the back. But basketball these days is a very physical game, and there's lots of contact."

After a fouled Wilson shot her free throws, she played two more quarters for the Liberty High Lancers. It wasn't until the team gathered after the game when Wilson asked her mom, Lorie, "Who are those girls dressed just like I am and why are they looking at me?" that anyone noticed anything wrong.

Wilson was taken to a hospital in nearby Colfax, where a CT scan ruled out skull fractures and bleeding inside the brain. The amnesia, doctors said, was a lingering symptom of a mild traumatic brain injury, better known as concussion.

"The brain has consistency of Jell-O and sits inside the skull, which is nature's helmet. When you hit your head, the brain can shift back and forth, causing injury at the site of impact and distant from it," said Dr. Alan Cohen, chief of pediatric neurosurgery and surgeon-in-chief at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

Concussions are a growing cause of worry in both childhood and professional sports. In December 2009, the National Football League cracked down on when players could return to a game after suffering a blow to the head.

"More and more, we're realizing that there are biochemical changes that go on in the brain during concussion, and that symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, like amnesia, can last for weeks or even months."

It has been nearly three weeks since the injury, and Wilson still can't remember the names of her friends and teammates. She has also switched from writing with her right hand to using her left -- a tweak that even her doctor had never seen.

"She had to sign something, and she grabbed the pen with her left hand," her father said, adding that she didn't notice until he pointed it out. "She said it felt more natural to use her left."

Wilson was ambidextrous as a young child, according to her dad. And although her new left-handed scrawl is imperfect, it's impressive. She has also used chopsticks with her left hand since the injury.

"It's unusual that someone should switch hands after a mild traumatic brain injury," Cohen said, adding that usually people switch hands after developing weakness in the dominant one. "Maybe there's something causing her to be weaker in her right hand. But the fact that she switched without realizing is interesting." 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio