Being a long time sport lover I have watched so many different sports I can't even list them. Collision sports, as well as supposedly non collision sports like basketball, heck I have even played most of them so I can only express my view on this from what I have experienced and observed over the decades.
Firstly, the helmet argument is completely and utterly wasting everyone’s time, the reason being that no matter what head protection you give someone in a collision situation, it may only slightly reduce the severity of an injury to the level of the impact multiplied by the amount of impacts and will never be able to do enough to satisfy the medical diagnosis of this type of long term accumulated injury to the brain.
Secondly, it is the rules and the interpretations of the rules and only this which can actually make some difference, which is of course only valid if we are happy to accept two things:
1. That sports injury will always be at risk no matter what is implemented.
2. That we love sport and will always want to watch it no matter the level of risk to athletes.
So, then we need to take into account what the causes of the injury are and by identifying those causes we can have a logical and common sense discussion about possible actions that can be implemented to reduce the risk of injury, because as I have stated the risk will always be there and cannot be totally avoided, only limited or reduced to an accepted level.
The actions of players during a game of basketball, especially during post play, where players like Matty Knight spend most of their time is the issue and how the laws - rules of the game are interpreted inside the paint is precisely what I would like to suggest is the most likely cause of this type of brain injury due to head strikes and collisions not usually experienced elsewhere on the court.
It appears to me that by taking away or at least officiating properly the following actions of players would not only reduce the number of head strikes and collisions, but it would significantly reduce the level of risk associated with players developing long term accumulated brain injury over time.
Swinging Arms – Too often players are allowed to get away with excessively swinging their arms, especially in the paint, where such action is immediately penalised elsewhere on the court, yet in the paint it may attract a foul, but in many circumstances it does not. Players are too often allowed to swing their arm from behind and the swinging arm contact often results in head hits, yet we see it time and again allowed to occur with players on the ground clutching their heads receiving only a foul and often only if they are lucky enough to get the call.
Blocking – The hip & shoulder block, bump and grabbing of players in the paint resulting in some head contact and players being knocked to the ground or into another player appears to be far less officiated in the paint, why is this and why is this different to elsewhere on the court?
Third player up – The third player flying in over the top of two players standing their ground under the basket, especially coming from behind his opponent is spectacular, no doubt, but this action causes many contacts to the head area which is not called and it is often in the paint.
Protecting the scorer – Too many times, the player going to the rack, either for a lay-up or dunk is contacted, left sprawled on the floor with head contact or has received a whack to the head while making a post move and this action is not penalised.
I realise many times players flop, so this issue in itself is one that I believe has developed over time because contact isn’t called in the first place, but flopping shouldn’t be allowed either, so my issue here is cause and effect (one creates the other in some instances, but not most).
There will be other instances, I am just bringing these up, off the top of my head (pun intended), for discussion.
My point is that no head protection device will change what happened to Matty Knight and will potentially happen to others unless the actual cause of this issue isn’t addressed. At least we need to talk about it openly, honestly and with common sense intent.