On Saturday night, when the Los Angeles Clippers were facing the New Orleans Pelicans, Austin Rivers took an elbow to the head from Terrence Jones and hit the floor, where he was attended by medical personnel and assisted to the bench. After some time had passed, Rivers was allowed back into the game, before appearing disoriented and getting removed once again. That sort of mix-up is incredibly dangerous for a player, and got some wondering about whether the NBA’s concussion protocol was properly implemented.
As it turns out, though head coach Doc Rivers claims tests were performed, “proper” isn’t the way to describe them.
The problem with that sort of test, as NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman points out, is that it was on the bench. Here’s the relevant part of the league’s policy:
If a player is suspected of having a concussion, or exhibits the signs or symptoms of concussion, he will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.
As Feldman notes, it’s impossible to produce a “quiet, distraction-free environment” on an NBA bench in the middle of an NBA game, which raises the question: If the Clippers admitted to breaching protocol, what penalties should and will be handed down, if any?
The easy route here is to say that the Clippers, like so many franchises across all sports, prioritized short-term winning over the long-term health of the player, but a complicating factor here is the relation of the coach to the player — namely, father and son. Much discussion has taken place over Doc’s ability to treat Rivers like just another player, but we may have finally found the definitive answer.
As much as we would have liked to have seen it, no special treatment was afforded Austin because of his family. He was sent back out there like cannon fodder just like too many others.
We’ve seen the priority placed on brain injuries and concussions in other sports, most notably football and soccer, but it can happen in basketball too. The NBA is a league as a whole that’s quick to make changes for the good of the players. This might be another instance where they can stay ahead of the curve.
(h/t NBC Sports)