A particularly nasty fall in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night has finally brought the issue of brain injuries to the forefront of basketball, just as it has numerous other popular sports. While the collision between Paul George and Dwayne Wade would be enough to cause a stir alone, it was the decisions made in the aftermath that brought a wave of criticism and concern.
After being knocked flat on the floor, George was pulled from play for a short period, where he was assessed on the sidelines and George reportedly denied having any symptoms indicative of a concussion. It should be noted, the sidelines at a major NBA game would not constitute the “quiet, distraction-free environment” for evaluation required by the NBA concussion policy.
Once George had thoroughly denied any signs of a concussion, he was put back into play, where George later admitted he was playing through blurred vision. George also later admitted to blacking out during his injury, and has since been diagnosed with a concussion.
As expected, critics were quick to tear apart the handling of George’s injury and a select number of players were there to add fuel to the fire by proclaiming “every last player in the Final Four would have played through it.”
While I can’t condone the above sentiment, expressed by Lebron James, analysis suggests the NBA may not have near as much of an issue with brain injuries as other sports leagues. One estimation from Injury Analyst Jeff Stotts, based on team reports, says George’s concussion is only the 10th of the entire season.
When compared to the 228 concussions diagnosed and reported during the 2013 NFL season alone, 10 injuries seems incredibly minor. Stotts’ estimations would mean there is only one concussion for every 149.5 NBA games played this season, with the NFL averaging almost one brain injury per every 1.4 games.
For some, the low rates of brain injuries might serve as comfort that the league doesn’t have to be as strict or watch as closely for concussions within the NBA. But, does it excuse failure to follow the NBA concussion policy? Are there more concussions we don’t know about because they are never reported on or tested for? When an injury like Paul George suffered Tuesday night doesn’t get caught by the NBA’s concussion testing, it doesn’t bode well for players who take less noticeable hits and feel expected to “play through it”.