After suffering a concussion last Friday when he was accidentally elbowed by teammate Austin Rivers, New Orleans rookie Anthony Davis spent Saturday night at home while the Hornets played the Bulls in Chicago. This was a seemingly normal precaution until his coach Monty Williams told reporters: “When you’re dealing with the brain, I guess what’s happening in football has impacted everybody. He got touched up a little bit last night. That happens a lot in basketball. It’s just that now they treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers, and it’s getting old. It’s just the way the league is now.”
The NFL’s concussion rules are prominent because of increasing fears about the health of football players amid high-profile suicides and lawsuits. But it’s not the only league with a concussion protocol. The NBA’s policy, instituted at the end of last year, matches those of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and even NASCAR. In fact, NASCAR drivers have been required since 2003 to be cleared by an infield doctor before returning to the track (though unlike other in sports, they have to admit that they have a concussion before being put through tests and treated). The NCAA and a variety of children’s sports programs also have similar policies.
The NBA’s current rules were put into place after a number of players missed games in 2011 because of concussion symptoms, including Chris Paul. So far this season, JJ Barea and Taj Gibson have also found themselves alongside Davis on the concussion bench.
For players like Davis — and for his coach — sitting out makes sense. The 19-year-old rookie signed a multi-million dollar contract and could be the future of the franchise. Multiple concussions can rob athletes of their ability to remember plays, react quickly and even figure out how to get to the stadium. Having safety procedures isn’t being scared — it’s being smart.