Kobe Bryant has played through plenty of injuries in his 16-year career. He's found a way to play through a broken pinkie, torn ligaments, back spasms, severely sprained ankles and everything in between.
When he suffered a nasal fracture and concussion, thanks to a foul courtesy of Dwyane Wade at the All-Star Game, he added two more injuries to the list.
After finishing the game in Orlando without any discussion, due to a new concussion policy that the NBA instituted, he had to pass a series of tests before being cleared to play. For once, his personal pain threshold didn't matter. It was all about acing the tests and getting cleared by a neurologist.
The NBA ruled last December that players must pass a series of medical tests and remain asymptomatic for at least 24 hours before they could return to the lineup after a concussion. So Bryant recalled driving around 'all over the place' so he could complete a series of exercises, including neurological, treadmill, bicycle and agility tests. He then completed a game of two-on-two and then has made five visits to neurologist Vern Williams to prove he remains asymptomatic.
In a league where players pride themselves on playing through pain and often feel that they're expected to shake off bumps and bruises to earn the salaries they're making, the concussion policy was an important move for the NBA. Ensuring that all players are healthy and ready to get back on the court to compete shows that the league emphasizes the importance of the well-being of their athletes.
While Bryant passed all of the tests in time to return to action without missing any time, he's wearing a mask to protect his face and has also been receiving treatment for neck pain. Bryant said he will continue to wear the mask after taking a shot to the face from Shane Battier in the Lakers' 93-83 victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday afternoon.
Bryant told the L.A. Times that he has been keeping the lights off on his days off to remain quiet and get some rest. He also said that this injury has been different than any other he's sustained in his career.
"In terms of injuries," he said, "this has been the one that I've really had to adjust my lifestyle to."
Despite the adjustments and the annoyances of having to wear the protective mask, Bryant continues to make it work and does so without complaint.