Indiana Pacers fans are watching closely to see if star George Hill can return to the lineup in time to knock the New York Knicks out of the playoffs.
Hill did not play in the Pacers' Game 5 loss at Madison Square Garden due to a concussion. The team says Hill was injured in a collision with Knicks' center Tyson Chandler in Game 4.
"I'm not sure exactly when he started to feel whatever symptoms he had, I know I got a call after shoot around that they were going to examine him about it and I got a text message at 4:00 that he was going to be out," Pacers head coach Frank Vogel said Friday.
Hill was still listed as day-to-day, pending more tests on Friday, and there are new concerns he may not be able to play the rest of the season.
In the world of sports, concussions can be viewed as nothing more than a hindrance. In 2011, the NBA went well beyond that by laying down a protocol for players who suffer concussions. The league now requires the player to pass a series of exertion exercises and be cleared by a league-appointed neurologist before returning to action.
Dr. Kevin Gebke is the director of Primary Care Sports Medicine at IU Health. He also just happens to be the team physician for IUPUI and served in that capacity when Hill was playing for the university. He knows what is at stake for the athlete and the organization.
"I really applaud the medical staff for saying, 'You know what, it's not time for this player to return to play, despite everything at stake from an organization standpoint. It's not the right thing to do for this person's health'," Gebke said.
The problem is, the protocol seems rather vague. Some players have been out for as little as five days, another was held out for nearly a month.
"There are a lot of varying reports about how much time he has to wait for each of the tests he has to pass before he can return. There is a report that says he has to wait 24 hours before each of the five or six steps, in which case is bad news. Other reports say that is not the case," said Conrad Brunner, who writes for 1070thefan.com.
Athletes can hurry back from knee, ankle or elbow injuries, but experts say there is no safe way to play through a brain injury, which can be frustrating to the athlete and the fans.
"They want to hear good news. They want George Hill back playing as soon as possible and I think the fact is, he will be back as soon as possible. We just don't know what 'possible' is right now," Brunner said.
"People want to get back as soon as possible. The question is, when is it safe and can we protect them from themselves?" said Gebke.