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Explaining the NBA’s new concussion policy (why Kobe likely sits)

Feb 29, 2012, 12:26 PM EDT

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Concussions are not as prevalent in the NBA as they are in the NFL and NHL, but traumatic brain injuries have become the talk of the sports medical community in recent years (not just what happens to a pro athlete but in high school and college).

In response to that, the NBA put in a new concussion policy before the start of the season, one that may force Kobe Bryant to miss at least Wednesday’s game due to a broken nose and mild concussion suffered on Dwyane Wade’s hard foul in the All-Star Game.

Here’s how the policy works:

Before the season started, Kobe (and every NBA player) took a computer test that had them answer questions about numbers sequences, patterns and the like. From that test, a baseline is established of a player’s reaction times.

After a concussion, a player has to take that test again and perform about as well as he did before the season, a determination made by the league’s neurologist at the University of Michigan.

The player must be symptom free (as determined by the test) for 24 hours before a game and have shown no ill effects from a series of increasingly challenging physical tests he is put under, from a stationary bike to agility drills. Basically, when he runs hard do the symptoms return?

Here is the key — all of this is taken out of the team’s and the player’s hands. They do not get to make the call, the neurologist working for the league makes the call. Kobe can say he is fine and wants to play, the Lakers can want him to play, and it’s moot if the doctor says no.

The reason is exactly guys like Kobe. He would play through this like he has played through everything, but the league may not let him.

NBA Commissioner David Stern was asked about the new policy before the All-Star Game and was supportive.

“And we recognize that there might be some pressure sometime in individual circumstances to accept a player’s determination to go back into a game, saying he was ready to do it, and put himself at risk, and we’re not going to do it,” Stern said.

“I think the teams have been very supportive of that. They may not agree with every single instance, but collectively they agree completely, because they wanted a uniform policy, and competitively our policy is there. Everyone gets treated the same, players and teams alike. And honestly it arms the teams with the ability to say to a player who wants to make an imprudent decision, you can’t do that, the League won’t let us. So they’ve got one more thing to blame the League for, and this is a good one.”

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