Working in conjunction with the College Athletic Trainers’ Society and medical organizations, coaches, administrators and conference commissioners, the NCAA issued new guidelines concerning concussion safety for student-athletes on Monday.
The guidelines address “independent medical care for student-athletes, diagnosis and management of sport-related concussion, and year-round football practice.”
Among the recommendations from the NCAA is limiting contact practices for football to “no more than two live contact practices per week throughout the regular season.” That mirrors a policy implemented by the Ivy League in 2011 and the Pac-12 last season.
A group of trainers, neurologists, team doctors, sports medicine directors and representatives from numerous conferences – including the five major conferences – worked together over the past six months in order to introduce these guidelines “in advance of preseason football activities this summer.”
“When you build inter-association consensus, I think it speaks much more powerfully because it’s not simply the NCAA making a rule,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. “It’s consensus from numerous well-respected medical organizations, from football coaches, from football associations, from all of us. In terms of changing the culture around health and safety, that’s the best way to do it.”
The NCAA made clear in its release that the guidelines are “not set in stone” and are not “legislated rules,” which allows for them to be altered in conjunction with ongoing research, including the $30 million initiative launched between the NCAA and Department of Defense concerning concussions in collegiate athletics.
“Medicine really is a process that’s much more fluid, which led us to the guideline approach rather than pursuing legislation,” Hainline said. “We’d rather have a document that can shift based on emerging evidence.”
The NCAA’s new practice guidelines include:
Preseason: For days scheduled for two-a-day practices, live contact is only allowed in one of the practices. Additionally, “a maximum of four live contact practices” are allowed per week , “a maximum of 12 total” can occur throughout the preseason and “only three practices (scrimmages) would allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of a practice schedule.”
Inseason, postseason and bowl season: No more than two live contact practices per week.
Spring practice: Eight of the 15 sessions “may involve live contact.” Three of those live practices can include greater than 50 percent of live contact for scrimmages. Additionally, live contact practices are limited to two per week and can’t be on back-to-back days.
When it comes to independent medical care for student-athletes, medical authority “should be established independently of a coach” and a licensed physician should serve as medical director. The guidelines call for that medical director to be given “unchallengeable autonomous authority” concerning players coming back from injuries.
Finally, the guidelines suggest that universities “make their concussion management plan publically available.” Any student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion will not be allowed to return to a game or practice and a student’s return to athletics or academic pursuits will be based on a “protocol of gradual increase” in activity – physical or educational.
It remains to be seen what the reaction to these guidelines will be from schools across the country.
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