OAKLAND -- The Warriors will spend the next several days watching the clock and the calendar, and hoping they are allies.
Hoping they provide enough time for Klay Thompson to recover from a concussion and return to the court before June 4, when the Warriors meet the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
“I’m thankful we have a week off between games for him to fully recover,” fellow guard Stephen Curry said, exuding optimism.
“This break,” coach Steve Kerr said, “has turned out to be good for us, obviously.”
Yet it’s too soon to know how long Thompson will be sidelined. Though he arrived at the team facility Friday, he did not participate in practice. The recovery period for a concussion depends on the severity. It could take a week, or a month, or longer.
“We want to be as careful as possible and make sure that our players are safe and sound and healthy,” Kerr said. “So we’ll follow this protocol that the league provides and we’ll have Klay out here when he’s ready.”
Thompson went through a battery of tests over roughly 36 hours between Wednesday night and Friday morning before an official diagnosis was released.
The Warriors released a statement late Friday morning:
“Following extensive examinations over the last two days -- including neurological tests earlier this (Friday) morning -- Warriors guard Klay Thompson has been diagnosed with a concussion,” the statement began. “He will not return to the court until he is symptom-free and cleared under the NBA’s concussion protocol guidelines. He will evaluated daily and there is no timetable for his return.”
Thompson was injured Wednesday night, early in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. After being hit on the side of the head by the knee of leaping Houston forward Trevor Ariza, Thompson immediately fell to the floor, using both hands to clutch the sides of his head.
He left the game and, after brief debate about his return -- he received three stitches in his right ear -- remained out for the rest of the game.
The 36 hours prior to official release of diagnosis were rife with speculation. That’s not unusual in cases involving head trauma. The next few days, however, are crucial, something Curry knows from his own experience.
Curry has sustained at least two concussions, the most recent coming on Nov. 18, 2013 against the Jazz at Utah. He missed the next two games and was out for a total of five days.
“In the cases that I’ve had, if you feel not yourself, then you let them know,” Curry said. “They pull you out and they re-assess. But that’s why the protocol is what it is.”
For now, the Warriors will keep Thompson in their thoughts while watching the clock and the calendar.
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.
- 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.
- Baseline Testing: Prior to each season, each player will undergo testing of baseline brain function, via a neurological and cognitive assessment.
- Evaluation and Management:
- 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.
- If a player is diagnosed with concussion, he will not return to participation on that same day.
- 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.
- Return-to Participation Decisions:
- 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.
- 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.
- Return-to Participation Protocol:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.