Steve Kerr believes Klay Thompson (concussion) will be ready for start of NBA Finals

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Klay Thompson didn’t return to the Warriors’ series-clinching win over the Rockets after being kicked in the head by Trevor Ariza. But he was cleared to play at the time, which in hindsight is extremely troubling.

Thompson suffered concussion symptoms later that night, which included dizziness and vomiting. But he wasn’t officially diagnosed with the concussion until two days later.

Concussion symptoms often times take hours to appear, but the league doesn’t have any mandate against players returning to action after a blow to the head unless the symptoms are present and identifiable at the time.

That’s something which should probably be addressed. In the meantime, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr seems just as cavalier (no pun intended) about Thompson’s concussion as the team’s medical staff was the night it actually occurred.

From Ethan Strauss of ESPN.com:

Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson is expected to play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, according to coach Steve Kerr.

“He’s doing well,” Kerr said after practice Saturday at the team’s facility.

“I’m anticipating he’s going to be there.” …

Asked if he is preparing for Thompson’s absence, Kerr said he was planning only for Thompson to be in the lineup. Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers is Thursday.

“I expect him there,” Kerr repeated.

That seems like an incredibly irresponsible statement from Kerr, at least on the surface.

In order for Thompson to return to action, he must pass the league’s concussion protocol, which is fairly complicated to ensure a given player’s safety. From the NBA:

  • The return to participation protocol involves several steps of increasing exertion — from a stationary bike, to jogging, to agility work, to non-contact team drills.
  • With each step, a player must be symptom free to move to the next step. If a player is not symptom free after a step, he stops until he is symptom free and begins again at the previous step of the protocol (i.e., the last step he passed without any symptoms).
  • While the final return-to participation decision is to be made by the player’s team physician, the team physician must discuss the return-to-participation process and decision with Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the Director of the NBA’s Concussion Program, prior to the player being cleared for full participation in NBA Basketball.
  • It’s important to note that there is no timeframe to complete the protocol. Each injury and player is different and recovery time can vary in each case.

That last part is perhaps the most important, here, as we try to interpret Kerr’s remarks.

Unless Thompson had already advanced through multiple stages of the protocol before Kerr met with reporters, which is obviously highly unlikely, then Kerr should have little reason to make such a pronounced declaration.

The long-term health of the players should be at the forefront of the team’s concern. Kerr placing this expectation on Thompson to play, whether he’s ready or not, seems to go against what should be a common-sense approach.