Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Bobcats reach out to NFL's Panthers for help with Wallace's concussion
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gerald Wallace earned the nickname "Crash" for his aggressive style that causes him to tumble to the floor with great regularity as the Charlotte Bobcats' acrobatic leading scorer.
Last season somebody placed a sign in Wallace's locker that read "No Diving Allowed."
After Wallace's latest spill, the jokes have stopped.
Wallace visited a neurologist Tuesday, four days after the forward was knocked unconscious when he was hit in the face with an inadvertent elbow from Sacramento's Mikki Moore. It was Wallace's fourth concussion in four years, an all-too-familiar statistic for football players, but almost unheard of in basketball.
While Wallace is out indefinitely, there are concerns about his long-term health and questions about what can be done to protect him when he returns.
"I'm not saying we're behind the ball because this is very new to basketball," Bobcats trainer Joe Sharpe said. "How many players in basketball are disqualified from concussions? Most of the literature out there right now is on football players."
Sharpe has looked at concussion studies involving NFL players over the past few days. He quizzed the Carolina Panthers medical staff on how they cared for Dan Morgan, the linebacker who sustained at least five concussions.
The Bobcats, who gave Wallace a six-year, $57 million contract in the offseason, are concerned about studies that warn of the dangers of multiple jarring blows to the head. Many ex-football players have complained of memory loss and depression.
Now the NBA is dealing with the issue involving one of its better players. Wallace is averaging 20.6 points per game.
"It's not something we've had many problems with," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
Wallace suffered the most serious concussion, a Grade 3, when Moore spun around in the post and hit him in the face.
Sharpe said Wallace was unconscious when he initially got to him. Wallace came to and answered some questions, only to lose consciousness again.
The sight of Wallace being on the floor for almost 10 minutes before being strapped to a stretcher was still on the minds of his teammates after practice Tuesday.
"I hope it works out for him, but that's a life or death thing," guard Raymond Felton said. "You start thinking about your life or your career. I hope it doesn't come down to that because we need Gerald."
Wallace, who has been resting at home since being released from the hospital Friday night, has complained of headaches and drowsiness.
"He took a pretty good shot to the face, and his eye, his cheek and his nose are really sore," Sharpe said. "His neck was a little sore, and looking at the film his neck snapped back a little bit.
"He still has drowsiness, so when he does he just goes to sleep. He needs his rest. He has a little bit of a headache, but nothing major, and he's improving each day."
On Tuesday, Wallace took cognitive tests that asked him to put shapes and figures together and measured his reaction time. The so-called "baseline" tests are now a requirement for every NFL player before the season. If a player sustains a concussion during the season, he retakes the test and it's measured against the first one to help determine when he can play again.
"I talked to the Panthers medical staff and asked them to maybe help me out in this situation," Sharpe said. "Maybe we should do some of these baseline tests for our team."
Wallace sustained his first concussion in a violent collision with teammate Tamar Slay in a preseason practice and was hospitalized in 2004.
Several studies with football players have shown that once you have a concussion, you are far more susceptible to another concussion on less impact. Wallace had two more minor concussions before Friday.
"If he had never had a history of concussions we probably wouldn't be in the situation we're in now," Sharpe said.
Sharpe said when Wallace returns he'll recommend he always wear a mouthpiece. Wallace was not wearing one on Friday night.
Coach Sam Vincent has talked about wanting Wallace to tone down his style of play, and "Crash" may have no other option when he returns.
"I think there's got to be some level of awareness for anybody who has four concussions in four years," Vincent said.
"I think the most important thing is we get through the evaluation process, we listen to our medical team and then based on whatever their diagnosis is, we'll move forward with trying to get him back on the floor."