Indiana Pacers All-Star forward Paul George blacked out on the court in Tuesday night's playoff game after he took two hits to the back of the head. Yet despite that and suffering through blurry vision, George was quickly cleared by doctors to return to the game.
The NFL has, fairly, been the focus of the growing awareness of head injuries and concussions in the sports world. But the failure to properly diagnose George with a head injury and take him out of the game does focus some of those same criticisms on the NBA.
With just under seven minutes left in the fourth quarter of the high-intensity playoff game against the Heat, Dwyane Wade's knee and leg smacked into George's head chasing after a loose ball. George lay on the ground for a few moments, unmoving, with his head down and buried in his arms. He eventually got up and struggled over to the sideline, where he was looked at by a team doctor. Wanting to continue playing, George denied any vision problems or dizziness on the sideline. He was quickly cleared and allowed to return to the court for the game's final minutes.
After the game, though, he revealed that he was playing through blurred vision, a common post-concussion symptom.
Paul George said he blacked out from his collision with Wade, and he tried to play through having blurry vision.— Scott Agness (@ScottAgness) May 21, 2014
After that comment, he was checked for a concussion again by team doctors, and again passed the test. On Wednesday, though, the Pacers brought in a consulting neurologist, who diagnosed George with a concussion because he had lost consciousness.
The infrequency of NBA concussions — George's was just the 10th this year, according to FiveThirtyEight — would help explain Indiana doctors' inability to properly diagnose him. Not only did they not find symptoms of a head injury, but they failed to follow NBA protocol, as George's initial concussion test should have been done "in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation." Instead, it was on the sideline of a high-intensity game with a screaming crowd.
Certainly, George wanted to help his team and so lied. But in this case, it's up to team doctors to take charge and take him to the locker room for a proper test. Especially after seeing him lie prone on the hardwood.
That could be forgiven, but it's not the first time the Pacers' doctors struggled. As SB Nation's Tom Ziller points out, Pacers docs also failed to diagnose guard George Hill with a concussion after a shot to the head last year. He was found to have a concussion a few days later.
In any case, with the (late) diagnosis, George must be symptom-free for 24 hours before he is cleared to play. The Pacers play the Heat again on Saturday, so he's got a few days to recover.