Almost a year after the death of Jason Collier, and over 13 years after the death of Reggie Lewis, the NBA has finally adopted a new heart screening program:
"The NBA's screening process will now require a number of tests which exceed the American Heart Association 12-point program. They include a physical examination, blood work, an electrocardiogram, a resting echocardiogram and a stress echocardiogram. Players must also provide personal and family histories to screen for certain predispositions."Way to be proactive, NBA. And your new program sounds great and all, but I'm not too thrilled with the fine print:
"The new rules do not require a player to be banned based upon test results, but tests will be administered annually and no player can take part in training camp before the tests are taken."So basically the NBA "requires" more heart testing, but it won't necessarily do anything with the results. If I were a cynical person -- and I am -- I'd say this feels like your basic public relations maneuver. It also provides the league with a nifty means of avoiding any liability if and when a player keels over on the court.Wouldn't it make more sense if the NBA specifically stated that players with a potentially lethal heart condition would be prohibited from playing basketball? If doctors could use that science stuff to prove there was a high percentage chance your job could kill you, wouldn't you want to stop doing that job? Or, if you were stricken insane, wouldn't you want saner people to make you stop? But you know the NBA; they wouldn't want to take the chance of losing a Lebron or Kobe to a "possible" death by cardiac arrest. Better to just give the player and his family the information and let them make the decision to keep playing (which is basically what they did with Reggie Lewis, and we know how well that worked out). This way, the player -- and not the league -- gets the blame for any unseemly public (or private) deaths. Just another sign that the NBA cares.The NBA cares. About itself, but it cares.Update: As Henry Abbott pointed out over at TrueHoop, one aspect of this issue I overlooked is that the new program allows teams to protect their investments. After all, who wants to invest $60 million in somebody with a serious heart ailment? Especially when you can spend $60 million on an underachieving stiff with a surgically reconstructed knee.