It wasn’t long after the Utah Jazz played the Los Angeles Lakers on Jan. 17 that Donovan Mitchell knew he wasn’t quite right.
He was already feeling pretty beside himself when the team landed in Salt Lake City, well after midnight. He didn’t fall asleep until after 7 am and thought he had a concussion once the headaches and nausea started.
“The first five or six days, I wasn’t doing anything,” Mitchell said. “I wasn’t on my phone, I wasn’t playing Xbox, I wasn’t leaving my house. It was bad: the headaches and the nausea. It was pretty bad.”
Now, 18 days after the initial head injury, Mitchell is symptom-free and ready to return to action Friday night against the Brooklyn Nets. But the last two weeks have not been easy.
Not only was Mitchell frustrated at not being able to compete and play, sidelined as his team went through its toughest stretch of the season, but just when he felt like he was getting better, things took a turn for the worse and it scared him.
He was working on the NBA’s concussion protocol, which includes multiple different stress, strength and cognition tests, each of which must be completed with the player symptom-free on the day of and the day after each test.
Before the Jazz’s recent road trip to Memphis and Minnesota, Mitchell was ticking boxes through protocol and hoping to be ready in time to play on the trip. He played 3-on-3 (one of the steps of the concussion protocol) the morning the team left Utah for Memphis and was feeling fine. But he began to feel symptomatic again on the team flight.
“I got to a point where I was a little nervous to be honest,” Mitchell said. “I’ve had concussions before and none of them have really felt that bad.”
But according to Dr. Vernon Williams, founding director of the Center for Sports Neurology and Pain Medicine at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, two weeks is a completely normal amount of time for someone to recover from a concussion.
“Two weeks is still in the realm of normal,” Williams said in an interview with the Deseret News. “That’s not really considered prolonged. We started calling things chronic in the realm of months. Three or four weeks can be a bit long, but it all depends on the person’s age and a number of different factors.”
So while Mitchell was worried, and there was speculation about his absence, medically speaking, his concussion, his symptoms and how long they lasted, it was all very normal. Mitchell didn’t realize that until he sought out a specialist.
“I didn’t know that,” Mitchell said. “But it’s not a long time, as I found out. That made me feel a little better. I have recovered faster from my previous concussions.”
Mitchell said he has had four concussions in his life: one in high school, one in college in Louisville, one last season and the one he just suffered. But Williams points out that even if she’s had previous concussions, that doesn’t mean one will be like the others.
“The old adage is if you’ve seen a concussion, you’ve seen a concussion,” Williams said. “They are extremely variable from person to person, and even within an individual, the duration of symptoms can be extremely variable. A person can have a concussion, and it takes three or four weeks to resolve and then the next concussion resolves in three to four days.”
A day after being named an All-Star for the third straight season, Mitchell said more than anything he was looking forward to getting back on the court and joked that since conditioning time has been limited in recent weeks, find out Friday night night if the work he did was good enough to carry him through the game.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism