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Migraine Minefield 2: The college basketball game

Migraine Minefield 2: The College Basketball Game

As a lifelong tall person, I’m used to being asked one question pretty frequently: “Do you play basketball?” As I’ve gotten older, the question has turned to “Did you play basketball?” I guess this means it’s pretty obvious I’m not young enough to be in high school or college sports anymore (and not buff enough to be in the WNBA, surely). My answer is, “Yes, but never seriously, and not for long.”

My sister, who is a couple of inches taller than me (and never lets me forget it) played basketball more seriously and for a much longer time than I. She follows several sports and, try as she might, usually can’t convince me to join her and friends to watch college football on the weekends. One sport we do enjoy together is women’s basketball. When I was 14 and still playing ball, we even attended one of the Women’s Final Four games in Atlanta—that was pretty exciting.

Migraine minefields aka trigger filled events

These days, my sister has season tickets to the Lady Dawgs games. The Lady Dawgs are the University of Georgia’s rather impressive women’s basketball team here in Athens. A couple of times a year, I go with my sister to see a game. It’s so much fun to get caught up in the excitement of the crowd, and to be at a venue small enough that no seat is a bad seat as far as the view goes—you can catch all the action.

You can also catch all the lighting, sound effects, noises, and smells.

For me, the Lady Dawgs games are exciting, but I sometimes have to pass up the opportunity to attend for fear of triggering or exacerbating a migraine. You see, a college basketball game is one of my Migraine Minefields.

I’ve written about some migraine minefields before: theoutdoor summer festival, the holiday season, and even jury duty. Once I called a visit to an Irish pub a “trigger party”—same concept.

Migraine triggers at a sports event

Here are just a few things at a college basketball game that can trigger a migraine attack or worsen an episode that has already begun:

  • flashing lights
  • massive overhead bright lights, including fluorescents
  • huge TV screens with promos so bright they have strobe-like effects
  • loud music blasted on speakers all around you
  • cheering/screaming/yelling
  • whistles, beeps, boops, bells, and more
  • steep stadium-style seating that can trigger vertigo
  • and, if you’re really unlucky, a neighbor who has really strong cologne or perfume on

I’m sure there are more things I can add next time attend a game in a few months’ time.

As it is, I tend to bring earplugs and a baseball cap to the games. Even with those tools, I occasionally close my eyes during certain lighting effects and have been known to cover my ears, adding an extra layer of protection on top of the earplugs.

Have you had similar trouble at a sporting event at any level? What sorts of triggers did you encounter? Do you still attend trigger-party sporting events despite the fact that you may end up with a migraine? Why or why not? 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • mammapeaches (Susan McManus)
    1 year ago

    First, Go Dawgs!!

    I can’t go to any sporting event without my noise canceling headphones. One day someone asked me what game I was listening to as I watched the game I was attending. I guess it makes me look like a sports junky!! We have season tickets for college football and basketball. I couldn’t make it without those headphones or my migraine sunglasses for the football games.

    Great Article!!

  • Kate
    1 year ago

    Yes, I too often struggle with events, although I don’t usually attend sporting ones. Anything with lots of stressors (traffic, crowds), heat, noise, and/or lights is tough. I usually wear sunglasses, hat, and earplugs as required, and be sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, meds, and anything else I may need. I also try to have a backup plan, such as driving myself home if I start to feel bad (and them my husband would get a ride home with someone else, or Uber).

    Unfortunately I often bow out of events last minute if I am already feeling poorly, as leaving the house is nearly guaranteed to make me feel even worse, and I hate feeling “stuck” somewhere feeling bad, like in the middle of a dinner party, where it would be odd to leave. Especially tough as most folks in my life don’t know about my health challenges.

    Sometimes Triptans can be taken as a “preventative” before an infrequent event that is very likely to trigger a migraine, so I’d suggest folks talk to their doctor about options.

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