While nowhere near as dire as the NFL, basketball has a head injury problem. It seems every major sport does, but basketball is considered a “noncontact” sport and there has been almost no conversation about the number of brain injuries that occur on the court. Probably because people think it is just a part of playing a physical sport.
This isn’t the case, as Henry Abbott points out at ESPN. As it stands, basketball players “have every reason to whack each other in the head” thanks loose regulation on those chaotic moments close to the net, and penalties that likely won’t actually hurt a team in the long run. Giving up a free throw is nothing compared to intimidating, or even taking out another player.
It seems unnecessary to state again the dangers of concussions, but the NBA is in a good place to combat these issues before they become worse. The problem is still relatively small compared to football and soccer, and the NBA has already started a concussion program aiming to improve player safety.
What the NBA needs to do however requires rule changes, which many fans are against. The same roadblock facing the NFL is threatening to begin chipping away at the legacy of basketball because die-hard fans of the sport don’t want a neutered version.
Who knows if the NBA will be able to make the necessary changes to protect their players. It would be easier than those the NFL needs to implement. For football, rule changes mean fundamentally changing the harsh nature of the game the fans love. For basketball, it means a few less phenomenally close plays up near the net.
Henry Abbott collected a partial list of the head injuries from just this season of the NBA and I suggest giving it a look to see just how bad the head injury problem is for basketball.