Big 12 announces new concussion diagnosis policy

Aug 30, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; A view of the Big 12 conference logo before the game between the Horned Frogs and the Samford Bulldogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)
Aug 30, 2014; Fort Worth, TX, USA; A view of the Big 12 conference logo before the game between the Horned Frogs and the Samford Bulldogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

The Big 12 announced a new policy for diagnosing and managing concussions for student-athletes on Wednesday.

According to a release from the conference, the policy, which was recently approved by the Big 12 Board of Directors, was “developed by athletic trainers, physicians and medical support staff.”

“The Big 12 is fully committed to the health and welfare of its student-athletes,” said Big 12 Board of Directors Chairman and Oklahoma State President Burns Hargis. “The implementation of this policy, along with the Conference's previously announced initiatives for all programs to provide multi-year grants, grant-in-aid up to the full-cost of attendance, and the opportunity to return to campus to complete degree requirements for those that leave school early, speak volumes to our commitment level.”

The policy calls for each school to have a “concussion management plan” directed by the team physician on file at all times. This plan “will specifically outline the roles of athletics healthcare staff,” including physicians, trainers, assistants, neurologists, neuropsychologists and physical therapists.

Additionally, schools will be required to educate its athletes, coaches, physicians and athletic directors “as to their responsibility for reporting any injuries and illnesses,” including concussion symptoms. During this education, student-athletes and coaches will “sign a statement confirming their receipt of such materials and acknowledging their responsibilities for reporting their injuries and illnesses.”

"Our membership has developed a comprehensive diagnosis and management policy that asserts the unchallengeable authority of medical practitioners in overseeing the welfare of our student-athletes in this very important area," Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. "This policy goes beyond what was approved during the recent NCAA Autonomy Governance, and puts all associated protocols where they belong; in the hands of trained medical staff."

The conference also has a thorough return to play policy, including giving medical staff the “unchallengeable authority.” From the Big 12’s release:

The guidelines will institute an assessment protocol in which appropriate baseline metrics be obtained to allow for post-injury comparative assessment at appropriate time intervals to monitor the recovery process. These will include objective assessment of signs and symptoms, neurocognitive function, and balance; and a systematic symptom guided return to play (RTP) progression.

The policy empowers the institution's medical staff to have the autonomy and the unchallengeable authority to determine management and return to play (RTP) of any ill/injured student-athlete, and ensures that no coach serve as the primary supervisor for any medical provider, nor have hiring, retention and dismissal authority over that provider.

As was the case previously, any player who exhibits concussion symptoms must be removed from practice or a game and cannot return “for the remainder of that day.”

The conference also will require each member school to submit “an updated concussion management plan” to the league office each year in order to “track potential unsafe plays.” Using this data, the league will keep look to “deter, limit, and/or prevent” unsafe plays that may lead to head injuries.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!