Klay Thompson suffered a concussion after getting kneed in the head during Game 5 of the Western Conference finals, but there was some initial confusion.
The Warriors said after the game he showed concussion-like symptoms. His agent said Thompson did not have a concussion.
None of that matters.
Thompson should not have been cleared to return during the game.
After getting whacked by Trevor Ariza’s knee, Thompson left the court area. The Warriors said they evaluated him for a concussion, and he returned to Golden State’s bench still in uniform. It appeared he’d check back in, but he began bleeding from the ear. Once again, he left the court area. Thompson didn’t return to the game after that.
He never should have had a chance to return in the first place.
“If you are testing somebody for the potential of a concussion, that’s enough to say that they shouldn’t play,” said Dr. Ben Wedro, who writes the DocTalk blog on MDDirect.org. “Because if you’re concerned enough to take him to a concussion-testing situation, then you should take the time to do it right and let time help you make the diagnosis. And if that means a player has to miss a game, well so be it.
“If you’re worried enough about an injury to do some testing, then you should know that concussions can take hours for the symptoms to be evident.”
The Warriors seemed to have followed the NBA’s concussion protocols, which don’t allow players to return the day they’re diagnosed with a concussion. Because Thompson wasn’t diagnosed with a concussion, he could return.
But those rules aren’t good enough for the reason Wedro says – the threat of delayed symptoms.
Thompson was away from the court area for just a few minutes. That’s not enough time for a proper evaluation.
In fact, his dad said Thompson was vomiting and couldn’t drive home after the game.
This isn’t like toughing it out through a leg injury before adrenaline wears off and it really starts to hurt. The risk is high.
“The concern is something called second-impact syndrome,” Wedro said. “And that says that, if you have a brain that is concussed and has not healed, it may not be able to protect itself against a second injury as well, and you can get swelling of the brain that spins out of control and people die. This is a rare situation. Some people believe it does not exist. Other people do. But that’s the concern – that if you stack concussions, that disaster can happen.”
The NBA should ban players suspected by medical personnel of having a concussion from returning to play that day. It’s too dangerous.
There is a risk team doctors will shy from testing for concussions if this lower standard is enacted, but maybe it should be taken out of their hands. The NBA could appoint neutral doctors to evaluate at each game.
That might be an overreaction in a league where concussions are rare, but the severity of head injuries is too high to keep putting possibly concussed players in this dangerous situation just because their symptoms didn’t show minutes after the fact.