Kemba Walker Injury Update: Celtics Guard Has Concussion-Like Symptoms, Likely Avoided Serious Neck Injury

Kemba Walker during an NBA game.
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Kemba Walker had to be stretchered off the court and taken to a hospital after a frightening injury on Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, but early indications show that the Boston Celtics guard may have avoided the worst-case scenario.

Walker fell hard to the court after what initially looked like an innocent sequence where he lost balance and collided with teammate Semi Ojeleye. Replay showed that Walker, who had his head down as he stumbled forward, appeared to bend his neck sharply as he made contact with Ojeleye, and then fell to the court, where he lay motionless as medical staff rushed to attend to him. During a break that lasted several minutes, many of Walker’s teammates and members of the Denver Nuggets gathered around.

Walker did appear to have some motion in his arm as team doctors treated him, and he was then strapped to a stretcher and taken from the arena. The Celtics guard had a neck brace to stabilize him as he was taken off the court.

As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Twitter, the early indications from the hospital are that Walker may have suffered a concussion but does not have a significant neck injury. The Boston Celtics later confirmed as much, reporting on Twitter that Walker had “concussion-like symptoms.”

While he may have avoided what could have been a season-ending injury, there is still the chance of missing significant time with a concussion. Like the NFL, the NBA has adopted stricter guidelines about when players can return from concussions, and they must pass through a series of steps before being cleared to play.

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As NBC Sports Boston noted, there are four steps in the league’s concussion protocol that a player must clear before they can return to the floor. First, they must be without concussion-related symptoms while at rest. Once they reach this benchmark, the player must be evaluated by a physician and the successfully complete the league’s return-to-participation exertion protocol. This is a series of exercises that a player must progress through without showing symptoms of concussion, from riding a stationary bike to participating in non-contact team drills.

Finally, a team physician must make a decision in concert with the league’s concussion program director.

It is not clear yet if Walker will be placed in the protocol, but he could be out indefinitely if he is diagnosed with a concussion.

The 29-year-old Walker is leading the Celtics with 22.6 points per game, adding 4.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists.