The NBA goes into significantly finer detail when dealing with player concussion protocols than does the NFL. It is a different sport, with different players and different criteria.
Player Education Is Key To Preventing NBA Injuries
Where the NFL is spending millions on helmet development and studying preventative measures for lessening the impact of concussion causing contacts, the NBA concentrates on the individual player more closely and focuses more on education and training to avoid concussions all together.
At the beginning of each NBA season, every player is given what is called “Baseline Testing,” which evaluates their mental and physical state before the season gets started to establish a baseline on which future tests and evaluations are judged. These tests will include a review of his neurological history and a baseline neurological evaluation, including brain function.
The NBA also places more emphasis on education for its players, coaches and medical staffs. From the NBA guidelines, “Every player, coach and health care provider will receive annual concussion education, including topics such as underlying mechanisms of concussion, common and uncommon presentations of concussions, and appropriate management strategies, and possible complications or long-term manifestations of the injury.”
Accurate Injury Reports Are Required
Similar to the rules for reporting injuries in the NFL, and for many of the same reasons, the NBA teams “must report information concerning player injuries, illnesses and resting for all NBA games by 5 PM local time on the day before the game.” This reporting will help the opposing team better prepare for the game, and cause the wagering industry to make the appropriate changes in their lines and totals for the upcoming game.
Of course, the games of football and basketball are inherently different. The first thing one will notice is the difference in the uniforms. While the NFL players dress out in a sophisticated set of body pads and head gear, the NBA players take the court dressed only in shorts and a jersey. Their only nod toward sophistication comes with their many and varied types of shoes exhibited at each game.
An NFL football field these days can be either natural or artificial grass, which often presents a different playing surface, requiring a change in shoes, each week. An NBA player pretty much knows what kind of surface he will be playing on wherever he goes. It will be hard wood, very hard wood with nothing to grab for support except the fans in the first row.
Protecting Head Injuries Is Difficult
There are no helmets in the NBA. Nothing stands between a player’s head and that hard wooden floor should they take an awkward fall. NBA players are practically naked when it comes to personal protection equipment. Those fancy shoes will not prevent much in the way of injuries should an accident befall them, and they end up tangled up with another player on the hard wood floor.
Under the heading of Acute Evaluation and Management in the NBA guidelines we find, “If a player is suspected of having a concussion, or exhibits the signs or symptoms of concussion, he will be removed from participation by either a team physician or the player´s team athletic trainer and undergo evaluation in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.”
In other words, this is not something that can be done quickly on the sidelines asking a player how many fingers he sees so that the player can get back into the game as it was practiced in the past. In fact, the NBA now has specific guidelines for returning a player to active duty who has been diagnosed with any type of concussion which “involves several steps of increasing exertion-from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work to non-contact drills.”
Note that there is no time frame indicated for when a player can return to active duty and “the final return-to-participation decision is to be made by the player´s team physician, in order to maximize the consistency of care for the player.”