Paul George ‘Blacks Out’ After Knee to the Head; Should the NBA Be Concerned?

May 20, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) gets hit in the head by Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade (3) during a scramble for a loose ball in game two of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Miami defeats Indiana 87-83. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) gets hit in the head by Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade.
USA Today Sports

In a play typical of the gritty, sometimes ugly basketball that has come to define the Eastern Conference, Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade caught Indiana’s Paul George with a knee to the head in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night. Both players were hustling for a loose ball, but George got the worst of hit, banging his head on the floor after the collision.

Afterward, George told reporters that he “blacked out” following the incident.

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The natural question here, raised by SB Nation’s Tom Ziller, is to ask what the heck George was doing in the game if he couldn’t see straight. Doesn’t the NBA have, like, a policy on this?

The league’s official policy for concussions states that a player “will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation” if he is suspected of sustaining one. Blurred vision and briefly losing sense of your surroundings would be a pretty strong indication of that. George tried to play through the incident and was not removed from participation.

Unlike the NFL, the NBA doesn’t have a concussion “problem” (though Ziller points to several incidents that raise concerns). There are no pending lawsuits against the NBA for neglect concerning head injuries, but incidents like this bring the seriousness of the subject in all pro sports to the fore. Basketball isn’t as much of a contact sport as football, but the risks and rewards of enforcing your concussion policy is the same. Enforce it strictly, and a team risks losing its best player in crunch time. Enforce it too loosely, and it’s some guy’s health on the line. George played through the knockout, but without a team doctor telling him he couldn’t, in the biggest game of the season, did he really have a choice?