March 21, 2023

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Mental health on injury report? NBA’s awakening could spark unprecedented move

Mental health on injury report? NBA’s awakening could spark unprecedented move

Near the end of his rocky rookie season, in April 2021, Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman learned he had a torn meniscus requiring surgery on his right knee. He cried as he sat in the Chase Center garage, struggling to digest the news. Then he cried for the next several days.

Wiseman plunged into a dark place at times over the next 15 months. He couldn’t play basketball and daily life was daunting: He wore a brace and needed crutches, making it difficult to use the bathroom or take a shower.

Wiseman also bottled his emotions, leaving him engulfed in frustration.

“Just going through my adversity, it made me stronger mentally but also took a toll on me mentally,” he said in a recent Chronicle interview. “I had to go to therapy and express myself. … When you hold everything in, it kind of tears you apart.”

In acknowledging he needed help, and extolling the benefits of his therapist sessions, Wiseman joined a growing list of NBA players to openly confront mental health challenges. From DeMar DeRozan to Kevin Love to John Wall, several prominent players have gone public with their stories, prompting the league and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to launch programs to protect mental health and wellness.

James Wiseman, Warriors Summer League player, answers questions in the interview room at Chase Center on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 in San Francisco, Calif.

Lea Suzuki / The Chronicle

Now the NBA and its players union are contemplating a landmark step: adding a mental health designation to the official injury report. That possibility has been discussed in collective bargaining talks between the two sides, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported in September.