With my pathetic jump shot, I never thought I’d have an “old basketball injury.” Little did I know that mine would come with a camera in my hands.
It was March 10 and I was in Peoria at the Civic Center covering the third place game between Rockford Lutheran and Seaton Academy. Adrenaline was high. I, along with the players and fans, was excited to be there.
State tournaments usually have more strict rules about where photographers can be. I imagine this is partly because there are far more people that “need” to be courtside. Media. Officials. The state athletics association. Etc.
While on the court, our only shooting positions were from the baselines. That was fine by me. That is where I usually shoot from anyways. Otherwise, I’m up in the stands getting a different angle.
What was different this time is where the reporters were. Normally, they are stationed at tables on the sideline. Instead, they were seated at folding tables inches behind the photographers on the baseline. I’ve covered a lot of basketball and I’ve never seen tables there. When there are tables nearby, they are set a good five to ten feet back from the baseline and they’re padded.
It didn’t take long for a player to lose control while driving down the court to go straight over the table. His athleticism was impressive. He was able to hurdle the table, only taking out the radio station’s mics.
It wasn’t long after that when it happened. Rockford Lutheran’s Tarence Roby came flying out of bounds right at me. I saw it coming the entire time but there was nothing I could do. I curled up to protect my cameras. Then, a direct hit. I rocked back slamming the back of my head into the edge of the reporters table, moving the entire table back.
Before I continue, let me say that I hold no ill will towards Roby. He was playing the game. There is a certain amount of risk photographers take. I know getting hit is a possibility.
I didn’t feel any pain after the hit. I sat back up and shot the rest of the game.
After the game, I went back to the media room to edit and transmit my images back to the paper. I left Peoria a little after 10pm. When I got on the highway, I noticed a headache forming. I assumed it was just weather related. Luckily, I made it into Rockford around 1am.
The next day (Sunday), I went in to work around 10am. My headache was worsening. My vision was acting up. My balance was off. My ability to string coherent sentences together was on the decline. But I pushed through work that day.
Monday morning, I called my boss before I came in. He had me go to an immediate care center which was protocol for a workplace injury. The doctor there diagnosed me with a concussion but was concerned with my vision issues. He said it could have been indicative of a brain bleed. He had me go to the hospital to have a CT scan.
Good news. No brain bleed. But the symptoms persisted and worsened. By Wednesday afternoon, the pain and vision issues were so intense, I had a friend take me to the ER where after eight hours, I had multiple MRIs done that also gave my brain a clean bill of health.
They put me on more and more pain meds. Nothing touched it. It seemed the only thing that would help was time.
A few weeks later, the symptoms had mostly disappeared.
Like I said earlier, I understand there is some risk in my profession. I often have to sign liability wavers when going to an assignment. However, most venues and events take precautions to prevent injury or death, even though it is still a possibility.
I question what the Illinois High School Association and/or Peoria Civic Center was thinking by putting unpadded tables inches behind photographers. It’s not just a danger to us but the players as well.
I was lucky that I only suffered a traumatic brain injury (the term the doctors were using for a concussion). It could have been much, much worse. I hope to see this venue change where they place reporters. It’s one thing for a photographer to take a calculated risk. It’s nothing short of stupid to increase that risk by putting a table inches behind our heads.