Players would welcome NBA concussion policy

By Colin Fly

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, March 10 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

MILWAUKEE — 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 didn't."

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.

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