It’s been a long few weeks for Donovan Mitchell.

During a game against the Lakers on Jan. 17, Mitchell was inadvertently elbowed in the head by Russell Westbrook in the first half. While he later admitted to a slight headache, he was able to finish the game and met with reporters afterward. Not thinking much of the hit or feeling off somehow, Mitchell didn’t assume much and figured the headache would disappear.

But late that night, especially after flying from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, Mitchell’s headache became unbearable and nausea set in — that’s when he knew something was off. He was later diagnosed with a concussion, thus sending him down a dark path.

“I got to a point where I was kind of a little nervous. … To be honest, I was like, ‘what happened’ because I knew this was bad,” Mitchell said. “I really wasn’t doing anything on my phone, not playing Xbox, not leaving the house. … It was bad. The headache the nausea were pretty messed up.”

Mitchell is no stranger to concussions, having had multiple ones already throughout his lifetime. Knowing the scares and future problems that come with repeated hits to the head, he was able to get a lot of support from his family, who helped take care of him.

“This is my fourth [concussion] I’ve had in my life, second this calendar year, so I knew I was going to take things a little bit slower,” Mitchell said. “She [Mitchell’s mom] was big on the life aspect. She’s here now, she’ll be at the game tonight, but it’s great to have a support time system like that, especially through a time like this.”

Now nearly three weeks after that hit to the head, Mitchell makes his much-anticipated return to the court Friday night when Utah hosts Brooklyn. While he’s ecstatic to get back and play the game he loves, the past couple of weeks have been more challenging than expected after watching Utah’s struggles from afar.

“It was tough because we’ve been going through a tough stretch. … Guys have been out, so it’s been eating at me,” Mitchell said. “Number one, I want to get back, but also trying to balance life. I want to play, I want to be with my teammates, but I’m no good in life if I don’t have a proper brain.”

Mitchell admitted that there were some dark moments, even ones raising questions about when he’ll play again. The amount of time passing while he remained in concussion protocol became so taxing that Mitchell and the Jazz sought guidance from multiple concussion and sports neurology specialists on Tuesday and Wednesday.

During those meetings, he was told there wasn’t much cause for concern — and that the timeline he was currently on was nothing out of the ordinary.

“It’s not a long time, so that made me feel a little bit better,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell appeared to be ready to return to action last week, traveling with the Jazz on their two-game road trip against Memphis on Friday and Minnesota on Sunday. Although he had yet to clear protocol at that time, he was making positive steps, so his return seemed imminent.

But the headaches and other issues persisted, causing him to miss both games and seek out the help of specialists earlier this week, a move encouraged by Utah’s training staff.

“I played three-on-three before we took that flight to Memphis, and I traveled under the intention of being back for the Memphis game,” he said. “Once I got off the plane, I basically went back to where I started. That’s when I really got a little bit nervous.

After passing all of the baseline tests and seeing significant improvement, Mitchell is back and ready to get to work.


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