Vertigo – The Final Four Edition

Alan Desmond
April 9, 2013

After three weeks of dissecting the Optokinetic Tracking test, let’s take a light diversion. It is Final Four weekend, and the country is basketball crazy right now. I am a bit of a basketball junkie myself, so anytime I can combine basketball and dizziness, I am on it.

The first item involves a game we used to play back in my basketball instructor days many years ago. It is difficult to keep groups of teenagers focused and entertained over a two-week period. We would try to work in at least one round of “DizzyBall” each session. This would involve having each camper hold a basketball over their head, tilt their head back and stare at the ball, then spin quickly 10 to 15 times in the same direction. They would immediately try to dribble the length of the court and attempt a layup. Hilarity ensued! There were a few skinned knees and elbows, but mostly it was just good fun laughing at each other.

See what happens here

Of course I didn’t know it at the time (and didn’t care), but we were creating the same situation that is part of the Step Velocity test using a rotary chair. You spin the patient in one direction for 45 seconds, until the provoked nystagmus fatigue, then stop the chair suddenly. After a few seconds, even though the chair is still, you will typically see a burst of nystagmus in the opposite direction. Well, it is during that same time interval that you are asking your camper to perform the complex task of running, dribbling and shooting.


The second item involves two people well known to Final Four basketball fans, Roy Williams and Tyler Hansbrough, both of University of North Carolina fame. Both have a vertigo connection. There have been numerous brief mentions of Roy Williams’s “vertigo” over the years, and I have seen him crouch down and hold his head at courtside on a few occasions. Various newspaper articles have reported that he has been evaluated for this at the Mayo Clinic, and that it is “nothing serious.” I don’t have any inside information, and as far as I know, no specific diagnosis has been released to the public.

Tyler Hansbrough is one of the toughest players I have ever seen. He’s big, strong and determined. He has played through a broken nose and other more visible injuries. But, he missed most of his rookie NBA season due to vertigo. Here is an excerpt from The Basketball Jones, a B-Ball related blog:

“In fact, according to Hansbrough, the eight months he was battling vertigo were the worst of his life. He didn’t know if he’d ever be able to play basketball again, the time off from playing left him out of shape and out of touch with the Pacers, and he even grew to hate video games. Plus, as he says, it was like being wasted without being wasted. From the Indy Star:

“It’s like being really drunk, or that’s what people tell me it’s like,” he said. “I’ve never had a drink, but that’s what I’m told. I couldn’t sleep. I just had to lay still. It got pretty harsh at times.”

Tyler is better now, and Coach Williams seems to deal with his vertigo effectively. The first games starts in a few hours, so I better wrap up.


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