The Things Monty Williams Doesn’t Know About Concussions Could Fill a Book.

The other team’s point guard brought the ball up-court to the three point line to my right. Instinctually, I turned my body so that I could see the ball handler but still see player I was supposed to be covering (Who had about 2-3 inches on me and some 40 pounds on me.) off of the left elbow near the top of the key. Judging by the point guard’s stance and the way he was staring down the player I was guarding while paying seemingly no attention to my very existence despite me being just a few feet away. “Yes, please make that pass,” I thought to myself. Then I saw the point guard make the very pass I expected him, and thought I could jump the pass for the steal, so I jumped as my opponent also stuck his arm out to receive the pass and—“Hey, who turned out the lights?!”

I found myself lying on the court for a few seconds without consciousness before realizing that I was actually lying on the court, and slowly brought myself up off of the floor. The other players asked if I was alright, and I shrugged them off by saying, “I’m good. I’m good,” although I wasn’t. After asking the others what happened, apparently my head collided with his shoulder as we both went for the ball, and down I went.

I tried to play it off and resume play as before. Since my team was on defense, I tried to locate the player I was supposed to be guarding. So, I looked. Then I looked again. And then I spun around again trying to find him, before realizing that he had been right next to me the entire time. Right then I realized just how disoriented I really was, but figured that the fog would lift in just a matter of moments.

However, the fog didn’t lift in a matter of moments; my head had begun to ache and the nausea set in as well—tell-tale signs of a concussion.

And then I did something really, really, really, stupid: I drove myself home.

I was playing in a small community rec center about twenty five minutes from home, but these were not typical circumstances. I couldn’t quite remember how to get back to the highway, but I still had the presence of mind to fire up the GPS for assistance. I remember making a couple of turns, and thinking that this was ok and that I was just “a little out of it”. In fact, my turn was coming up in less than half a mile.

Or so I thought.

The next thing I knew, I was a quarter mile past my turn with no clue or recollection of how I got to that point. Yep, I blacked out, and for the first time, I truly understood firsthand just how dangerous concussions were. At this point in my journey home I was actually a little scared to keep going, but I carefully continued and made it home alright.

“When you’re dealing with the brain, I guess what’s happening in football has impacted everybody,” Williams said before the game. “He got touched up a little bit last night. That happens a lot in basketball. It’s just that now they treat everybody like they have white gloves and pink drawers and it’s getting old. It’s just the way the league is now[…]”It’s a man’s game,” Williams said. “They’re treating these guys like they’re 5 years old.” – New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams after Anthony Davis didn’t travel with the team after suffering a mild concussion.

When I first saw these statements, and the prepositional phrase, “When you’re dealing with the brain,” I was expecting a somewhat intelligent observation and concern for Davis’ well-being. That’s what I get for having expectations. While Monty is a very good basketball coach, he greatly missed some points about head injuries.

Sure, it’s basketball, and it’s not a sport that people may widely regard as a contact sport, but it certainly can be. Look and how I sustained mine, and even Davis for catching teammate Austin Rivers’ elbow at the wrong time. Things still happen, and it only takes a little anything to have those symptoms flare up, especially if the person is still dealing with the symptoms. Even if you don’t get hit in the head “that much”, like Monty also said, it only takes one hit!

That’s the thing about concussions: once you’ve had one, you’re much more susceptible to them reoccurring later on. For me, it can be anything from having something solid fall on my head in the wrong place, or an otherwise unassuming head bump, to bring back the headaches, nausea and that “out of it” feeling. It’s actually incredibly frustrating to deal with honestly, even though it doesn’t happen all the time.

And that’s the thing. Davis could catch a wayward rebound to the head, or accidently get bumped funny in the post and be fine. Or he may not- there’s no way of knowing with these things.

I’ve also come to realize through the few concussions I’ve had by now that there is no shaking it off, either. If people could just wish away their symptoms, they would, but they go away on their terms not yours. So, in a way I’m glad the league is here to protect their players from coaches/teams that would say, “Come on. It’s a man’s game!” or the other semi-sexist comments he made above.

This isn’t about basketball; it’s about a player’s well-being. Davis, being 19 years old, has not just a lot of basketball ahead of him, but even more life ahead of him. And that’s where the importance needs to be placed. And if that means he has to miss a few games that likely won’t cost the Hornets anything as far as playoff hopes, then so be it.



About Derek James

In addition to writing for Howlin' T-Wolf, Derek James writes about basketball Hardwood Paroxysm in the ESPN TrueHoop Network and covers the Charlotte Bobcats for SB Nation’s Rufus on Fire. Andray Blatche and Isaiah Rider follow him on Twitter.

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