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NBA releases summary of its concussion policy

May 18, 2013, 9:30 AM EDT

George Hill, Raymond Felton

The NBA has had a concussion policy in place for the past 18 months, and while all teams have been made aware of the details, they haven’t been publicly available until now.

With the recent concussion that kept George Hill out of the Pacers’ Game 5 loss to the Knicks (and may sideline him even longer), Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star requested the policy from the league, and he was provided with a summary.

You can read the entire thing for yourself below, and it’s pretty much as you’d expect. There are provisions for the types of examinations players must undergo who are experiencing symptoms, as well as for testing thresholds players need to meet before they are cleared to return to action.

What was most interesting was the baseline examinations that all players undergo before the season, because it allows doctors to compare current activity a player exhibits during recovery to what was seen in a completely healthy state prior to experiencing any injury.

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National Basketball Association Concussion Policy Summary

The National Basketball Association Concussion Policy is designed to maximize the neurological health of NBA players by providing a framework of education and clinical management. The policy was created under the core principle that each concussion, and each athlete, is unique. Optimum medical care depends on an individualized and comprehensive approach to concussion management.

1. Education: Every player and coach receives concussion education prior to the beginning of each season. Topics include information on the underlying mechanism of concussion, common and uncommon presentations of concussion, appropriate management strategies and possible complications or long-term manifestations of the injury.

2. Baseline Testing: Prior to each season, each player will undergo testing of baseline brain function, via a neurological and cognitive assessment.

3. Evaluation and Management:

a. If a player is suspected of having a concussion, or exhibits the signs or symptoms of concussion, they will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.

b. If a player is diagnosed with concussion, he will not return to participation on that same day.

c. A player that is diagnosed with concussion should have their physical and cognitive exertion limited as much as possible while they are still experiencing symptoms of concussion.

4. Return to Participation Decisions:

a. Once a player is diagnosed with a concussion he is then held out of all activity until he is symptom-free at rest and until he has no appreciable difference from his baseline neurological exam and his baseline score on the computerized cognitive assessment test.

b. The concussed player may not return to participation until he is asymptomatic at rest and has successfully completed the NBA concussion return-to-participation exertion protocol.

5. Return to Participation Protocol:

a. 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.

b. 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).

c. 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.

d. 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.

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