Alex Caruso had already been declared out against the Golden State Warriors when the Lakers announced that he had sustained a concussion during their most recent game on Friday, but on Monday prior to tip-off, head coach Frank Vogel clarified that Caruso would also miss the team’s Tuesday matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves due to the NBA’s concussion protocol.
“The earliest he can come back would be Thursday, but he’s got to follow the steps of the concussion protocol,” Vogel said.
The steps for the concussion protocol don’t specify that Caruso is forced to miss a certain amount of time beyond not being allowed to start the return-to-play process prior to 24 hours after the injury is sustained, which Caruso wouldn’t be affected by since it happened on Friday. However, the process does dictate that “initiation of the return-to-participation exertion process is determined by a team physician,” so the Lakers’ team doctor may have decided that Caruso needed to wait a few days.
When Caruso is allowed to start the return-to-play process, he will have to go through several escalating steps of exertion, starting with riding a stationary bike, then jogging, then doing some agility work, and then finally going through non-contact team drills while being monitored by a member of the team’s medical staff. Per the NBA’s concussion protocol, after each step in that process, “a focused neurological examination is performed and a player must be symptom free to move to the next step. If a player is not symptom free after a step, he stops until he is symptom free and begins again at the previous step of the process (i.e., the last step he passed without any symptoms).”
Caruso must also not be suffering from any concussion symptoms while at rest before being allowed to return. When that is the case and he’s also passed the other steps in the process, then the Lakers’ team doctor has to discuss the return-to-participation process with the director of the NBA Concussion Program. After all that, then Caruso can get back out on the floor. It is unknown what level of symptoms he is feeling right now, or where he’s at in the process.
The Lakers will host the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday, and if Caruso can’t get back on the floor by then, their next two games afterwards will be against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and Phoenix Suns on Sunday.