Players would welcome NBA concussion policy
Aaron McKie remembers being popped by an elbow on the side of
his head and finishing the game in Los Angeles anyway. Things
started going badly a few hours later.
”I was watching TV but I wasn’t really watching. I got up, went
to the bathroom, didn’t have an appetite, and I went and spit in
the toilet and blood came out,” said McKie, a longtime NBA guard
and now a 76ers assistant coach. ”I went to the hospital and I had
a mild concussion.”
Still, McKie said, he played the next game because ”concussions
weren’t a big thing at that time.”
The NBA told The Associated Press this week it has been working
with an independent neurologist to establish a league-wide
concussion policy and return-to-play protocols. A policy could be
in place before the start of next season.
Players and former players who spoke with the AP say they would
welcome the move after years of head-jarring hits and a feeling
among some, like McKie, that they needed to play on.
”They have to,” Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut said of a
formal policy. ”It should’ve been done years ago.”
Added Magic coach Stan Van Gundy: ”I think it’s a great idea in
all the sports.”
”We’re dealing with a very dangerous thing,” the coach said.
”The more they’ve learned about concussions, especially the danger
of not recovering from concussions before you’re back to activity
tells you that every sport has to be very conscious of it.”
Bogut, a former No. 1 pick now in his sixth season, figures he’s
had ”five to 10” concussions in his pro career, including three
after breaking his nose three different times. He said he’d like to
see ”mandatory” testing in the preseason to establish benchmarks
to evaluate when a player is ready to return from a concussion.
Sitting out even without clear symptoms is OK with him.
”Brain injuries are nothing to play with, no matter what,” he
said. ”If you want to call a guy soft for sitting out with a
concussion, you’re an idiot.”
Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans missed five games
for Sacramento last season after being elbowed in the face and said
it was hard to stay out of action.
”That was a situation where at the time I really wanted to
play,” Evans said. ”Maybe in the long run it was best that I
All-Star Chris Paul sustained the most recent concussion in the
NBA when his forehead hit Cavaliers guard Ramon Sessions’ shoulder
on Sunday. The Hornets’ guard was taken from the court on the
stretcher and the team has hired a neurologist to monitor Paul’s
condition. Paul returned to practice on Thursday, but is not yet
cleared to play.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said he can remember Magic Johnson
getting a concussion and the 1987 playoff collision between Pistons
teammates Vinnie Johnson and Adrian Dantley that knocked both
players out of a game.
Current players say they think the game is less violent than the
physical teams of the ’80s and ’90s. But Scott, who doesn’t recall
ever having a concussion in his playing days, said today’s players
are bigger, stronger and faster – and that the collisions have
become more violent.
”It’s a good thing that the league is taking a serious look
into concussions because again, we don’t have helmets, this is
something probably that should’ve been put in place a while back,
but obviously it takes time and when something like this happens, I
think the commissioner has done a real good job of jumping on it,”
Scott said. ”Hopefully we’ll have something in place.”
Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis, who was known for his scrappy,
hard-nosed play during his 14-year career, said that he could’ve
had several concussions and had no idea.
”They didn’t test us for anything back then. No MRIs, X-rays.
If the bone was sticking out they might say, ‘Yeah, you need an
X-ray,”’ Rambis said. ”There was probably a lot of cases where
guys may or may not have, but the diagnostic testing is much more
accurate now and there’s much more intensity to getting players
checked for everything and anything than there was back then.”
In the NBA, six players have missed games in the past four weeks
with concussions or concussion-like symptoms. The injuries, and
particularly the incident involving Paul, have gotten the attention
of many players.
They say they’re looking to the league to protect them.
”I’m all for it,” Bucks guard John Salmons said. ”I was just
talking to my wife and saying there’s been a lot of concussions
lately in basketball. We’ve had a few on our team, alone, so I
think it’s a good thing they’re looking at it.”
Sessions, who didn’t know he was the one who Paul ran into until
his shoulder hurt the next day, said he hasn’t been a part of any
educational programs geared toward players learning the warning
signs of concussions.
Hornets guard Willie Green, though, talked extensively about the
materials he received about the dangers of head injuries in both
Philadelphia and New Orleans.
”They pass out handbooks that give you ideas or things to do if
you symptoms or if you feel nauseous or what have you – if you get
a concussion, these are the steps,” Green said. ”The doctors and
our training staff, they’re going to do a great job and take you
through all the tests that you need.”
Currently, the NBA tracks concussions, but leaves it up to teams
to determine the guidelines for when a player can return to the
court. Wizards coach Flip Saunders said he believes the franchises
do everything they can to make sure the players won’t put
themselves at risk.
”There’s a policy here even on fevers. If you have a fever over
101.5 or whatever, we don’t let guys with that sort of fever play
because of where you can be with heat,” he said. ”So whatever
they do, anything to protect players from being further hurt, I
think everyone in the league’s all for that.”
For Bogut, the contact in the NBA is as serious as any other pro
sport given the elbows and lack of head protection. He fears some
players feel they must stay in games and keep their symptoms
”I’ve probably played through something like that when I was a
rookie, a bit naive. I wanted to play every game. I’ve gotten to a
point where I want to play every game, but it’s stupid to put my
body in harm for 10, 15 years down the track. It’s only money,” he
said. ”If someone’s going to take my spot because I miss time with
a concussion and I’m out of the rotation, so be it.”
AP Sports Writers Dan Gelston in Philadelphia, Jon Krawczynski
in Minneapolis, Brett Martel in New Orleans, Antonio Gonzalez in
Sacramento, Calif. and AP freelance writers Tim Hipps and Daimon
Eklund in Washington contributed to this report.