Charles Barkley isn’t a concussion expert by any means, but by virtue of the stick he wields on TNT’s "Inside the NBA," he’s one of the NBA’s leading voices on controversial matters like this.
One night after Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry fell on his head during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, Barkley commented on Curry’s injury and how sports media has covered it before ripping into the NFL over their own struggles to educate, prevent and treat player concussions.
Steph Curry is a tough kid. If he can come back in the game -- I hear these guys talking about concussions. Don’t try and compare basketball concussions to football concussions. That’s ridiculous.
The doctors cleared him and that’s fine. But these guys on TV trying to compare basketball concussions to football concussions is ridiculous. That is not true.
They got a serious issue with concussions in the NFL. Steph Curry is going to get one concussion a season. [Football players] get five a game -- small concussions. Now they’re trying to make a big deal. We have known this for years. They have been screwing these players in the NFL and now they're trying to play catch-up.
This isn’t the first time Barkley has debated the inherent violence of football and its long-term impact on players. While he was quick to blame the NFL for their past organizational failures to take head injuries seriously, during an April appearance on "Conan," he inferred that players have to weigh the costs, too.
“I played football one day in my life, and then I realized they were a bunch of damn idiots,” he said. “They’re finding out thirty years later they have head issues and body issues. I knew that after one day. I quit after one day.”
Barkley is right when it comes to the disparities of concussions between football and basketball. In January, the NFL reported 111 concussion cases during the 2014 regular season. Comparatively, there were only nine concussions in the NBA’s 2013-14 regular season, FiveThirtyEight reported.
Nevertheless, head injuries are becoming a growing concern in basketball.
According to a 2010 study by Pediatrics, more than 4 million youths were taken to the emergency room for basketball-related injuries from 1997 to 2007. While the overall injury rate declined over that ten-year period, the number of “traumatic brain injuries” from basketball increased by 70 percent.
And while some criticize Barkley for weighing in on lofty topics, this is one area in which he can speak from experience. He suffered a concussion while playing for the Philadelphia 76ers during a 1992 game against the Sacramento Kings, in which he collided with a fellow player.
While Curry returned to Monday's Game 4 after his nasty fall, and is expected to play in tonight's game, the incident has brought new attention to the danger basketball players may also face when it comes to head injuries, as well as a focus on whether teams are handling them properly.