March 09, 2011
On Sunday, Chris Paul sustained a nasty-looking concussion during the Hornets' victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. He was taken off on a stretcher, and while the injury is not as serious as initially feared, CP3 is still under close observation by doctors to make sure he is in good shape before returning to the court. He won't play Wednesday night vs. Dallas, and it's possible he'll miss more games, as well.
However, the Hornets' precautions are team-instituted, not a matter of league policy. Each franchise has its own concussion guidelines, which sometimes puts players in good standing and other times in danger. Last month, we brought you the story of Bucks forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute(notes) claiming that concussion policies at UCLA were more responsible than those in Milwaukee. It stands to reason that the Bucks are not the only team that doesn't run all possible tests after similar head injuries.
The NBA is consulting with an independent neurologist and may establish a league-wide policy for handling concussions by next season, The Associated Press has learned. NBA spokesman Tim Frank confirmed the discussions Tuesday.
"The NBA Team Physicians Society has been studying the issue of concussion management for several years and each team follows its own treatment and return-to-play protocols," he said. "In addition, the league is working with a consulting neurologist concerning the possible adoption of a league-wide protocol."
The move would bring the NBA more in line with both the NHL and the NFL. In just the last four weeks, six NBA players have missed games because of concussions or concussion-like symptoms.
Concussions will never be as big a deal in the NBA as they are in the NFL or NHL, but high-level basketball still qualifies as a contact sport. Even a single concussion can be a serious injury, and players deserve as much care as possible before they return to action.
In a perfect world, teams would already have these policies in place. But in lieu of that, it's the league's responsibility to bring about these kinds of changes. Retired basketball players typically struggle with back and joint pain more than brain trauma, but it's still within the realm of possibility. Kudos to the NBA for doing the right thing here, even if it's not an NFL-level issue for the league.