Basketball and epilepsy – shoot hoops safely with seizures

  • March 28, 2023
  • 3
In this article
A man takes a slam dunk on a basketball court

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the USA - coming second only to football among fan favorites. In the 2021/22 season, the average TV audience for basketball games was 17 million people!

If you have epilepsy and are interested in playing basketball, it's helpful to think about how the condition might affect your game. Here’s everything you need to know about playing basketball if you have seizures. We’ve also listed several pro basketball players with epilepsy.

Is it safe to play basketball with epilepsy?

Generally speaking, yes, it is safe for people with epilepsy to play basketball. In 2015, the International League Against Epilepsy published a list of sports and activities, categorizing them according to the potential risk for people with seizures. Basketball was put in the lowest risk category, which means there’s no significant additional risk of injury if you have a seizure while shooting hoops.

In the past, physicians sometimes recommended that people with epilepsy shouldn't take part in sports. Experts now agree that doing a certain amount of physical activity is beneficial for most people with epilepsy. Studies show it can improve mood and general health, and could even reduce seizure frequency. 

Learn more: Can you exercise with epilepsy?

Minimize the risks when playing basketball with epilepsy

If you're thinking about starting to play basketball and you have seizures (or were recently diagnosed with epilepsy), it's a good idea to speak with your doctor first. Depending on the kinds of seizure you have and how frequently you have them, your doctor may provide advice specific to you.

That said, most people with epilepsy can play basketball safely with the following tips:

  • Stay hydrated: Becoming dehydrated may make it more likely that you'll have a seizure, so make sure to bring along a big bottle of water for each game.
  • Take breaks: When you're playing basketball, it's easy to get completely engrossed in the game and forget to pause. If you have epilepsy, try to take a short breather from time to time to prevent overheating and stress.
  • Think about the heat: If you live in a hot climate and your seizures are affected by higher temperatures, it might be best to avoid playing basketball on days that are especially warm.
  • Let others know about your seizures: Think about telling the people you play basketball with about your epilepsy so they know what to do if you have a seizure. You could also consider wearing a medical bracelet which lets people know what to do.

Famous basketball players with epilepsy

Over the years there have been several successful basketball players with epilepsy:

  • Mike Simmel: Mike is a world renowned basketball entertainer who played with the Harlem Wizards – read our interview with Mike here.
  • Bobby Jones: Bobby played basketball professionally between 1974 and 1986, at the Denver Nuggets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
  • Justice Bartley: Justice joined the 2019 NBA draft and has played in several leagues over the years.

Related: 5 NFL players with epilepsy

Slam dunk! Basketball with epilepsy

Playing basketball can be a great way to exercise, spend time with friends, all while playing a fast-paced sport. With some simple precautions - and a chat with your physician - playing basketball with epilepsy is normally perfectly safe. 

So, lace up your sneakers and get ready to play!

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