Shooting Hoops with a Schizophrenic Basketball Savant

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In summary, a 35-year-old male with schizophrenia approached me today at a local park and seemed very polite and friendly. We quickly traded shots and I found out that he was a very good shooter. His smooth, controlled shooting motion was impressive. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll ever see him again as he seems to live a transient lifestyle.
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berkeman
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I was practicing basketball free throws at a local park today when a 35 y/o male crossed the courts near me and seemed to maybe be mumbling to himself, but I said a freindly howdy anyway. He responded with a similar greeting and asked if he could shoot hoops with me, and I replied that I mostly practice free throws now, but sure, we could trade off shooting together.

So he took off his big backpack and jacket and I tossed him the ball and he proceeded to knock down about 4 out of his next 5 shots from the elbows and the top of the key. Wow! With no warmup at all, and his shooting motion was very smooth and controlled. Pretty cool.

So we traded off about 10 shots apiece for the next 30 minutes, with me shagging his shots from the field and me shooting my practice free throws. He was ataxic in his body movements when not shooting, and he kept blurting out uncontrolled phrases and partial sentences. I could tell that he had some mental problems going on, but he didn't seem like a threat to himself or others nearby, so I just enjoyed trading off shots with him.

When I got home I did some Google searching, and it seems most likely that unfortunately he is suffering from untreated schizophrenia, but at the same time is a savant in his physical basketball shooting skills.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443

In four years of shooting a couple days a week at that park I've never seen him before, so I may never see him again. But if he turns into a regular there going forward, I may try to see if he's aware of the medication options available for his schizophrenia and see if he might be willing to try them out (modulo any health insurance he may have, or maybe the public health options we have in our area -- I'll need to research that angle a bit).

Damn, I wish I could shoot as well as he was shooting!
 
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  • #2
How do you know he is untreated? Aren't some of the dyskinesias associated with anti psychotic meds sort of ataxic?? Anyhow I hope you can follow up (and get some pointers...)
 
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  • #3
hutchphd said:
How do you know he is untreated?
That's a good question. I only have a limited experience with schziophrenia, mostly through non-medical parents who have dealt with difficult situations with their teenage sons.

But from my limited searching as a result of those conversations, most emergence and treatment (Tx) occurs in the late teen years for young males. There are exceptions of course.

And one of the most important things I've had reinforced in my 14 years as a part-time medic is not to "judge a book by its cover" and make assumptions about the back stories for folks who are having troubles. Just because he had a big backpack and was dressed with the jacket for the weather does not mean he is homeless and without any support structures.

I'll definitely follow up with him gently and discretely if I see him at the park again.

The best thing that came out of my conversations with a good friend of mine who was very immersed in such a family situation, is that after a couple years of MDs titrating the drugs for his son-in-law, the son is doing much better and able to lead a pretty much normal life. It took a couple years of struggling to get him to cooperate with the docs, and then a couple years of the docs titrating the meds. So hard, but so important.
 
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  • #4
I had a college roommate who suffered from severe schizophrenia. He was a math whiz, but that was his only known talent. One particularly empathetic person was able to communicate with him. He said that his life was "constant hell".

He had a problem that was typical of schizophrenics. When on their meds, they feel normal and good, and think they no longer need the meds. When off the meds, they cannot be persuaded to take the meds. A group of us talked to a doctor about him, and learned that there was no way that we could help him. He had a full, unopened bottle of meds that had been prescribed 2 months earlier. It was frustrating for all of us.
 
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  • #5
jrmichler said:
When on their meds, they feel normal and good, and think they no longer need the meds. When off the meds, they cannot be persuaded to take the meds
Yes, that is one of the issues that my friend and his family had to deal with, and part of the long journey to a stable relationship with the son. Lordy, so hard.
 
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  • #6
I have a much sadder tale involving the son of a friend of mine who was 25 when shot multiple times by the police in Tigard, Ore when he refused to unlock his car. His mother is a retired MD in Santa Barbara.
He was in fact off his meds. And he was unarmed in his car in a parking lot at his apt and actively threatening nobody. And he was shot down just like that. I am not a big fan of the police at this juncture. A very sad and stupid end.
 
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  • #7
Oh crap. That is really bad and so sad for the family and everybody involved. I'm deeply tied to law enforcement (through training and through local family/friends), and will try to look into it in any way that I can. Will try to post a follow-up tomorrow or Wednedsay. Very sorry, hutch.
 
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  • #8
Will send you a PM to get links, hutch. Very sorry for everybody's loss.
 
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  • #9
I much appreciate your interest. Certainly a cautionary tale.
 
  • #10
jrmichler said:
He had a problem that was typical of schizophrenics. When on their meds, they feel normal and good, and think they no longer need the meds.
Also happens with antidepressants and anti-anxietals.
 
  • #11
jrmichler said:
When on their meds, they feel normal and good, and think they no longer need the meds.

Having seen the 'Don't need meds anymore' on several occassions, with various people and various conditions, I believe that syndrome is fairly common with any chronic condition.

For instance I currently have a neighbor that is dying from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Dsisease); he was a chain smoker since his teen years, now in his late 60's with <¼ lung capacity (only one half of one lung is functional, sort of).

Over the last several years he would stop taking some of his meds when he was doing well and, at one point, even stopped using his CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine at night. Of course he would land in the hospital, often on a ventilator for a week or so.
:cry: :cry:

At the moment he seems to be following Doctor's orders.
 
  • #12
berkeman said:
I was practicing basketball free throws at a local park today when a 35 y/o male crossed the courts near me and seemed to maybe be mumbling to himself, but I said a freindly howdy anyway. He responded with a similar greeting and asked if he could shoot hoops with me, and I replied that I mostly practice free throws now, but sure, we could trade off shooting together.

So he took off his big backpack and jacket and I tossed him the ball and he proceeded to knock down about 4 out of his next 5 shots from the elbows and the top of the key. Wow! With no warmup at all, and his shooting motion was very smooth and controlled. Pretty cool.

So we traded off about 10 shots apiece for the next 30 minutes, with me shagging his shots from the field and me shooting my practice free throws. He was ataxic in his body movements when not shooting, and he kept blurting out uncontrolled phrases and partial sentences. I could tell that he had some mental problems going on, but he didn't seem like a threat to himself or others nearby, so I just enjoyed trading off shots with him.

When I got home I did some Google searching, and it seems most likely that unfortunately he is suffering from untreated schizophrenia, but at the same time is a savant in his physical basketball shooting skills.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443

In four years of shooting a couple days a week at that park I've never seen him before, so I may never see him again. But if he turns into a regular there going forward, I may try to see if he's aware of the medication options available for his schizophrenia and see if he might be willing to try them out (modulo any health insurance he may have, or maybe the public health options we have in our area -- I'll need to research that angle a bit).

Damn, I wish I could shoot as well as he was shooting!
I have been in a similar situation. It turned out to be a long frienship. I applaud the way you handled it.
 
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  • #13
It's amazing yet tragic in how there are correlations between some mental illnesses, savants, and creativity. This is a sad topic for me. Treating schizophrenia is incredibly difficult for some families. I got carried away and wrote 2000 words as a response to the thread. I deleted it because it might be to personal or explicit for others, but here is a snippet:

"When she sang, it was magical and as if Schizophrenia didn't have it's claws on her. Glimpses of what it would be like to have that marvelous and consistent grandmother that cared about me followed by the sense of acute, tragic loss of a persons sense of existence constantly being wiped away and rebuilt again, over and over, as her inflamed brain destroyed pockets of matter and struggled to heal itself. How can you build self-awareness or a sense of identity with that process of destruction wiping your mental and emotional gains time and time again, to come back and find that you cannot nurture any relationships and are all alone? True tragedy."
 
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  • #14
I have only a limited experience with schizophrenic Pts, and even less experience with savants with schizophrenic issues, but one of the things that struck me the most was how when he switched from his dribbling (which was okay but not great) to his shooting jump shot, his ataxic issues went totally away for a couple of seconds, and his body movements were beautifully smooth and controlled (and bulls-eye accurate on his shots).

I wonder if it's related to having a skill before acquiring a disability and still having that skill after the disability. I've had a similar issue with an eye injury, and for things that I was very good at before losing my binocular vision, I'm still able to compensate and do well. Not so much for picking up new stuff that requires binocular vision...
 
  • #15
I have known people with Parkinson's Disease that moved very nicely when riding a bicycle.
I think singing or music is the same way for some problems.
Perhaps due to big functional inputs from parts of the brain that don't have the disease problems.
 
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  • #16
berkeman said:
I was practicing basketball free throws at a local park today when a 35 y/o male crossed the courts near me and seemed to maybe be mumbling to himself, but I said a freindly howdy anyway. He responded with a similar greeting and asked if he could shoot hoops with me, and I replied that I mostly practice free throws now, but sure, we could trade off shooting together.

So he took off his big backpack and jacket and I tossed him the ball and he proceeded to knock down about 4 out of his next 5 shots from the elbows and the top of the key. Wow! With no warmup at all, and his shooting motion was very smooth and controlled. Pretty cool.

So we traded off about 10 shots apiece for the next 30 minutes, with me shagging his shots from the field and me shooting my practice free throws. He was ataxic in his body movements when not shooting, and he kept blurting out uncontrolled phrases and partial sentences. I could tell that he had some mental problems going on, but he didn't seem like a threat to himself or others nearby, so I just enjoyed trading off shots with him.

When I got home I did some Google searching, and it seems most likely that unfortunately he is suffering from untreated schizophrenia, but at the same time is a savant in his physical basketball shooting skills.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savant_syndrome

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/schizophrenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354443

In four years of shooting a couple days a week at that park I've never seen him before, so I may never see him again. But if he turns into a regular there going forward, I may try to see if he's aware of the medication options available for his schizophrenia and see if he might be willing to try them out (modulo any health insurance he may have, or maybe the public health options we have in our area -- I'll need to research that angle a bit).

Damn, I wish I could shoot as well as he was shooting!
I think this is the sadist post I've ever seen on PF. I hope you do see him again and can be of some help. Please keep us posted and let me know if there's any thing I can do to help; probably only emotional support though.
 
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  • #17
BillTre said:
I have known people with Parkinson's Disease that moved very nicely when riding a bicycle.
I think singing or music is the same way for some problems.
Perhaps due to big functional inputs from parts of the brain that don't have the disease problems.
One theory of schizophrenia is that it is due (in part) to too much dopamine, while the motor symptoms of Parkinson's are definitely from too little dopamine. So medication for schizophrenia that reduces the effect of dopamine can produce symptoms resembling those in Parkinson's. [I have no idea if what condition the OP is describing, just commenting based on comments above. Also, there are some differences, as schizophrenia is often said to be dopamine D2-receptor related, while Parkinson's might be more D1-receptor related, but these are all over-simplifications of course, particularly with respect to schizophrenia.]
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3325428/
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160706174359.htm
 
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Related to Shooting Hoops with a Schizophrenic Basketball Savant

1. What is a "Schizophrenic Basketball Savant"?

A "Schizophrenic Basketball Savant" is a person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects a person's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, but also possesses an exceptional talent or skill in the sport of basketball.

2. How does schizophrenia affect a person's ability to play basketball?

Schizophrenia can affect a person's ability to play basketball in a variety of ways. It may cause disorganized thinking, making it difficult to follow game strategies or communicate with teammates. It can also cause hallucinations or delusions, which may distract or disrupt a player's focus. Additionally, the side effects of medication used to treat schizophrenia, such as drowsiness or tremors, can also impact a person's physical abilities on the court.

3. Can someone with schizophrenia still be successful in basketball?

Yes, it is possible for someone with schizophrenia to be successful in basketball. With proper treatment and support, individuals with schizophrenia can learn to manage their symptoms and still excel in their chosen sport. Many professional athletes have also openly discussed their struggles with mental illness, proving that it is possible to succeed despite these challenges.

4. Are there any famous basketball players who have schizophrenia?

While there are no known famous basketball players who have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, there have been athletes in other sports who have spoken openly about their experiences with the disorder. For example, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps has shared his struggles with ADHD and depression, which are also common co-occurring conditions with schizophrenia.

5. How can we support and encourage individuals with schizophrenia who want to play basketball?

One of the best ways to support and encourage individuals with schizophrenia who want to play basketball is to educate ourselves about the disorder and its symptoms. This can help us better understand the challenges they may face and provide appropriate support. We can also advocate for more inclusive and supportive environments in sports, where individuals with mental illness are not stigmatized or discriminated against. Lastly, we can offer our encouragement and celebrate their achievements, just as we would for any other athlete.

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