By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com
Paul George, the Indiana Pacers’ All-Star wing player and leading scorer, was diagnosed with a concussion Wednesday morning and will begin the NBA-mandated protocol for returning to participation, the team announced.
George’s status for the rest of the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat is not known. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday in Miami, with subsequent games played every other day as needed after that.
George suffered a head injury while scrambling for a loose ball midway through the fourth quarter of Indiana’s Game 2 loss at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. As he dived for the ball, Miami’s Dwyane Wade tripped over George, Wade’s left knee and then right leg striking him in the back of the head.
The Pacers’ fourth-year star said later that he blacked out momentarily, and can be seen in video lying still as coaches and team medical staff came onto the court in a timeout. George revealed after the game that, in addition to pain from the collision, he also suffered blurred vision over the final 6:50 of the game.
“I mean, I blacked out as soon as it happened,” George said late Tuesday night in the Indiana locker room. “And then, the whole four or five minutes, however much time was remaining, I was just blurry. My eyes was blurry. I just tried to play through it.”
That part came as news to the Pacers’ medical staff. George had denied during the timeout that he was experiencing dizziness, nausea or issues with his vision, all symptoms of a concussion, and was deemed active and aware of his surroundings. So coach Frank Vogel allowed George to play the balance of the game.
After the game, based on George’s comments and with the NBA and other pro sports leagues taking a more cautious approach to traumatic head injuries, the Pacers conducted the actual concussion assessment. Again, no symptoms of a concussion were evident.
But when he was re-evaluated by the team’s consulting neurologist, George was found to be suffering from a concussion.
Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the director of the league’s concussion program, said the team’s trainers and doctors handled George’s injury properly Tuesday. “The Indiana Pacers medical team followed the NBA concussion protocol and there was no indication of concussion during the game,” Kutcher said in a statement released by the team. “This case illustrates that concussion evaluation is an ongoing process and manifestations of the injury may not always present immediately.”
The return-to-participation protocol has no minimum timeline for a player to complete it – each injury and each player’s recovery time is different. The steps involve tests of increasing exertion – stationary bike, jogging on a treadmill, agility work, basketball drills – and the player must be symptom-free to advance to the next step.
Before a final determination clearing the player is made, the team physician must discuss the process and decision with Kutcher.
With three days between Games 2 and 3 in the series, George will have additional recovery time before he’s at risk of missing a game. For a reference point, Pacers point guard George Hill suffered a concussion in Game 4 of the 2013 East semifinals against New York last May, missed Game 5 but played in Game 6. The gap between Games 4 and 6 of that series last year was 96 hours – same as between Games 2 and 3 now.
But as noted in the policy, every case is different. For example, New Orleans big man Anthony Davis missed 11 games in his rookie season after suffering a concussion in November 2012. Orlando’s Nik Vucevic missed five games with a concussion in March 2013. Others have missed no games while completing the process from diagnosis to greenlighted to participate.
The Pacers and the Heat took Wednesday off, with both scheduled to resume practice Thursday. Tied 1-1 in the best-of-seven showdown, Games 3 and 4 will be played at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena before the series shifts back to Indianapolis next Wednesday.