Former NBA center Paul Grant – now a concussion advocate

paul-grantPaul Grant is not very well remembered in the NBA, although he tried hard to find his spot in the league.

Grant played two seasons in the NBA (98-99, 03-04), appearing in 16 games throughout his career, scoring 29 points and 18 rebounds total.

After the NBA, Grant became a college coach and, through his friendship with “Head Games” author Chris Nowinski, an advocate for concussion education, ESPN reports.

The thing is – Grant recalls how he was feeling the effects of a concussion he had suffered on a jump ball with Bison Dele in one of his NBA seasons.

“We went up to get the ball and our heads rammed into each other,” says Grant, “and I got knocked on the corner of my forehead.”

The referees stopped play as Grant tried to collect himself. He walked around to shake off the cobwebs, and stayed in the game though he could hardly see out of his left eye. “It was all bright colors flashing,” he says, “all the colors of the rainbow.”

Grant knew enough to keep his legs moving and, thinking it was just a bump in the head, played his usual minutes.

“The thing with my vision was going on and off the whole game,” he said. His swollen brain made his movements a split-second slower; the complex decisions that NBA players instinctively make every second took real effort.

“I didn’t feel like myself,” he says. “I really needed to concentrate, and the more I concentrated the more I felt really not all there.”

Likely because he did not get proper medical attention and continued playing, the effects lingered, Grant says, for two or three weeks.

Grant now works on behalf of the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit organization that works to spread the word of concussion caution in a time when new research is exposing the dangers of mismanaged concussions and the possible long-term effects of repeated blows to the head.

During his playing days, Grant says he didn’t even know what a concussion really was.

“There was no education,” Grant says. “It was like, ‘Well you didn’t get knocked out, so you don’t have a concussion.’ And that was the thinking by me and the general consensus I think in the league: Unless you get knocked out cold, we’re not going to talk about a concussion.”

But, he says, of course concussions have long been a part of basketball: “There are inevitably times when you get your legs taken out from under you, you get pushed in your back, you fly into the backstop, you hit your back on the floor then your head hits the floor, you dive on the floor and run into another player’s head.

“This type of stuff happens frequently enough that it needs to be addressed so that when it does happen players and organizations aren’t at risk of losing these guys for an extended period of time.”

“The overall thinking in the NBA was that you don’t make the team in the training room,” he explains. “You got to do whatever you can to get on the court.”

So he did what he had to do, which was keep his mouth shut about his symptoms. Of course, Grant didn’t really understand the danger that he was in.

He didn’t know that if he suffered another concussion while still recovering it could jeopardize his career. He didn’t know that just playing, even without suffering another bump, could lengthen his recovery time.

Grant wants today’s NBA players to know these things. He is pleased that the NBA has begun to take the issue of concussions more seriously with new efforts to diagnose and treat concussions.

Grant sees player education as a major part of making sure that those who do receive concussions get the necessary treatment, something NBA players say has also been happening more than in the past.

Currently, every NBA player and coach is required to watch a one-hour educational video on head injuries. Grant, who gives such presentations to athletes from the youth to professional levels, believes that every player in the league should receive intensive training on the risks and realities of concussions, and that rookies in particular should receive more aggressive training.

But Grant also recognizes that rookies are going to take after their peers and the players they look up to. He recommends a public service announcement of sorts featuring a respected veteran like Gerald Wallace, who has suffered at least four concussions in his NBA career. Says Grant, “If I have someone who’s not only in my profession but I look up to and he’s telling me, ‘OK, take it seriously,’ it’s really going to sink in.”

In December 2012, Grant, along with other former NBA players, Anthony Bonner and Jerome Williams played for the U.S. team in Savio Cup All India Basketball tournament for men and women.


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