February 09, 2011
The NFL has received a fair share of criticism over the last few months with its lax policies with regards to concussions and other serious head injuries. With the level of helmet-to-helmet contact in football, these athletes are putting their long-term mental health at risk, and the NFL seems to focus mostly on the money they make in the moment.
There are far fewer blows to the head in basketball than in football, but that doesn't mean that a concussion on the basketball court isn't a serious injury. So things looked a little odd to Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes) when he easily made it back into games after suffering a concussion this year. From the Associated Press (via PBT):
"I didn't have to do any tests because we were on the road and doctors were here," Mbah a Moute said. "They just asked me how I was feeling, and I told them I was feeling better. They were like, ‘You're fine."'
Mbah a Moute said he knocked heads with a Dallas defender on Jan. 1 and returned three days later, despite some soreness on his left side of his head. The experience has made him think there should be a league-wide policy to handle every concussion.
"There should be standards in the NBA. You need to do these tests and pass these tests before you can come back on the court. Bottom line. We definitely don't get as bad concussions as football and other sports, but a concussion is a concussion," Mbah a Moute said. "It's a serious injury and there should be tests."
Mbah a Moute also notes that a concussion sustained during his time at UCLA kept him completely away from basketball activities for eight days. And while that injury may have been more severe than the one Mbah a Moute experienced with the Bucks, head injuries are still worth monitoring in great detail before a player is cleared to play again.
Among current NBA players, only Gerald Wallace(notes) has suffered regular concussions that could eventually put his career at risk. But even a single concussion has wide-ranging impact on the future, and researchers are learning new things about the injury's effect on the brain every day. There's no reason for the NBA not to take care of its players, because these are the same men that make the league its money. It's the least it could do.
Ultimately, the outrage over the NFL's concussion policies isn't specifically about long-term brain trauma, but the more general issue of a sports league providing a safe working environment for its most high-profile employees. For the most part, the NBA does that, aside from the general risks of playing a sport where hard fouls happen. However, concussions are a big deal, even in isolation, and they deserve to be met with as many stress tests and various other forms of attention as any knee injury.