Basketball referees are responsable of controlling the behaviour of the players during competitive basketball as well as implementing the rules of the game. To do this, three referees are obliged to keep up with the playing time. Although referees are sportsmen, only some national and international federations have a medical program for them.
People from the basketball world may think:
- Why do referees need a doctor?
- How can doctors help referees?
A long time ago, sportsmen only visited a doctor when they suffered a medical problem, but the situation nowadays is different since doctors also carry out preventive medicine. In this article we try to explain what is FIBA's medical program for referees and why it's necessary. The main message is PREVENTION.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PLAYERS AND REFEREES
Referees and players are sportsmen, but there are some differences between them.
1. AGE, WEIGHT AND HEIGHT
The table 1 shows an example of FIBA Europe's and Spanish (ACB and LEB leagues) referees from different levels.
- Elite basketball referees usually achieve the peak of their officiating careers at an average age that is considerably older than basketball players.
- The average Body Mass Index (BMI) in FIBA, ACB and LEB was higher than 25. For general population, the BMI is considered normal if the range is placed between 20-25. Nevertheless, if the range is situated between 25-30, it is considered overweight.
- Referees are shorter than basketball players and height isn't important for them, but this variable is necessary to calculate the Body Mass Index ((BMI): weight(Kg) / Height 2 (m))
The table 2 shows an example from spanish referees about different folds and fat percentage. This information is more useful for sportsmen. In this table it is important to pay attention to the average and the minimum and maximum value in the abdominal fold and the fat %.
There is a big difference between referees. Basketball players have a different fat % depending on their position and their gender.
Referees have to be in an optimal weight and fat % in order to reach a high performance level.
2. PHYSICAL CONDITION AND PHYSIOLOGICAL DEMANDS DURING A MATCH
Until now, there were few scientific studies about the psysiological effects of elite competion on basketball referees.
All of us know referees don't have physical contact, don't have to jump, throw, dribble or play defence, but they have to run all over the court with sudden movements and despite feeling fatigue, they can not be substituted during the game.
Also, referees need to be concentrated from the start to the end of the game, because their decisions are very important. In short, why is it important to know what type of physical and physiological demands referees need during a basketball match?
- Type of movement.
- Distance covered and duration.
- Heart rate during the match.
It is necessary to know this information. For example, during a basketball game the average Heart Rate (HR) of a referee is 150 bpm (range 110-181 bpm). This is important to plan an appropriate training program to maintain and/or maximize their performances.
3. LOGISTICAL SUPPORT
Basketball players play either in a club or a national team. They have a coach, an assistant coach, a physical trainer, a physiotherapist, a doctor, others. They have a team plan for the entire season but this situation does not apply to the referees. Referees normally train alone, lack a personal physical trainer, a physiotherapist or a doctor. Also, they travel a lot and some times they have another job. These factors can cause several difficulties in order to follow an appropiate training program, but now the situation is different because referees have access to the necessary information to follow a individual training plan.
To be keep an optimal weight and fat % is good, but it's not enough if referees don't follow an appropiate training program to achieve and maintain an optimal performance.
4. PSYCHOLOGICAL STRESS DURING A GAME
The potential sources to induce stress upon referees are: players, coaches, public, theirselves, their colleagues, family, journalists, national or international referee departments, others. There are different studies about the magnitude and perception of psychological stress by basketball referees (Raney D AND Winterich D. 1995) (Stewart MJ y cols. 2004).
The conclusion of these studies were that referees didn't feel very stressed. In fact, only a very low percentage felt stressed during the game.
This result suggests that “Experience is a degree” (quoting an Spanish expression). FIBA's medical programs for referees Due to these and other reasons, FIBA's medical commission believes that it is necessary to give referees the same medical support as players.
The objectives of FIBA's are:
- To look after the referees health.
- To prevent illness and injuries in referees.
- To help referees reach and maintain a high performance.
HOW CAN FIBA MEDICAL COMMISSION PUT THIS INTO PRACTICE?
1. The first step is to recommend a medical examination before the season for referees. Why?
People think sports are good to stay in good health, but this is not always the case in high level sports. Unfortunatly, it is frequent to hear or read about sportsmen that die during or after a basketball or football match and this could happen to referees too.
Sudden cardiac death is a rare but devastating event.
Victims are usually young and apparently healthy, but many have an underlying cardiovascular disease that it is not diagnosed until after the event.
The etiologists of sudden cardiac death associated to sports activities depend on the age of the individual.
- Under 35: Sudden cardiac death is usually due to congenital heart disease.
- Over age 35: Sudden cardiac death is most due commonly to coronary heart disease.
Different factors of risk include: family history in both of them, hypertension, high cholesterol, tobacco, overweight, stress, diabetes, stimulants.
After this situation, there are several issues that we can THINK about: could it have been avoided? Yes, in some cases. FIBA's medical commission thinks that it is neccessary that all referees pass a medical examination as well as the players.
2. The second step is to design programs to prevent common illnesses and injuries in referees.
Referees usually have less injuries than players and most of them are due to ove ruse or recurrence of a previous injury.
Unfortunatly, some injuries and illnesses happen suddenly (as you can see in an both Spanish and FIBA's referees) and it is impossible to prevent, but many of them (overuse) could be avoided if referees follow some prevention programs. It is important to avoid injuries and illnesses and feel healthy. That way, referees don't have to stop officiating and could have longer careers.
3. The third step is to give useful information to help referees improve their performance. For example, information regarding:
- Nutrition and hydratation.
- First aid.
- Physical condition programs.
- Recovery procedure.
- Jet lag.
- Others medical information interesting for them.
Some factors can improve performances, and it is very important that referees know them to follow.
4. The fourth step is to support them during their clinics, physical test, FIBA's competitions.
Referees shouldn't be alone, they need the same support as players to prevent medical problems and to find an early solution when this happen.
In order to be a good referee, having the same technical knowledge and experience will make a big difference in the physical condition, as well as their mental and Physiological health.
Referees are very important for basketball and they need the same medical support than players to achieve their maximum performance for as many seasons as possible. Also, this way, they'll finish their careers without any medical handicaps.