Early in the Bucks’ win over the Magic on Saturday, Giannis Antetokounmpo got elbowed in the head by Aaron Gordon. After the game, Antetokounmpo said he didn’t remember much after the hit and was “probably knocked out.” Yet, Antetokounmpo stayed in the game for a few minutes. He left the court area – presumably for concussion testing – later in the first quarter. Antetokounmpo returned to play in the second quarter, missed the third quarter for what he said was more testing then played in the fourth quarter.
Sadly unsurprisingly, Antetokounmpo is now in the concussion protocol.
This doesn’t mean Antetokounmpo suffered a concussion. The league’s protocol wisely – but also cleverly for creating plausible deniability – treats concussions and potential concussions the same.
Whether or not Antetokounmpo suffered a concussion, I doubt the Bucks would ever publicly acknowledge it. Because that’d mean he played through a concussion.
Though that can happen through unfortunate circumstances, and despite the Bucks’ insistence otherwise, there appears to have been negligence here.
The NBA’s concussion policy states:
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.
The Bucks didn’t suspect Antetokounmpo of having a concussion as soon as he went down from that hit? Him holding his head and turning away from the well-lit arena looked like the sign of a concussion to me.
I just can’t see a way to condone not immediately removing him from the game for concussion testing.
Perhaps, those tests would have yielded nothing. After all, Antetokounmpo passed later tests and returned to the game. Concussion symptoms can take a while to appear.
But that is a flaw of the NBA’s concussion policy. The biggest danger is a concussed player suffering another concussion, which can lead to major problems including death. If Antetokounmpo were concussed, even if he were asymptomatic to that point, it was dangerous for him to play.
Thankfully, nothing worse happened with Antetokounmpo. He’ll miss tonight’s Milwaukee-Toronto game, a matchup of the NBA’s last undefeated teams. So will Raptors star Kawhi Leonard (rest). It’s disappointing for that game to lose so much luster.
But the far bigger concern is how the NBA and its teams continue mismanage concussion testing.