The scrutiny on concussions and the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries in professional sports has intensified in the last few years. Many people have started to ask if the NCAA and college athletic departments are doing enough to protect their athletes.
In April 2010, the NCAA adopted its Concussion Policy and Legislation. The policy mandated that each of its schools has a concussion management plan.
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Among the aims of the NCAA’s policy:
• Athletes at each school should be educated about the signs and symptoms of concussions.
• An athlete with signs and symptoms of a concussion should be removed from the practice or competition.
• An athlete diagnosed with a concussion should be kept out of sports until assessed by a member of the medical staff.
• An athlete diagnosed with a concussion requires medical clearance from a physician or physician’s designee.
Since 2010, how well have the colleges and universities been following the NCAA’s concussion policy?
Survey of the NCAA schools
In a study recently published online in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers at Boston University and Harvard University surveyed coaches, athletic trainers, doctors, and compliance administrators at all NCAA institutions. They wanted to see how well the NCAA concussion policy has been implemented at the schools.
Mostly the results were encouraging. 92.7% of respondents said their school had a concussion management plan. 98.8% believe that the plan protected the athletes at their school “well” or “very well.”
On the other hand, over three quarters of the respondents (78.1%) felt that their school’s plan could be improved. Some of the improvements that were commonly suggested:
• Better coach education
• More sports medicine staff
• Better athlete education
I didn’t realize one key aspect of the NCAA Concussion Policy and Legislation. The authors of this study point out that the NCAA requires that its schools have concussion plans in place, but not that the schools actually implement those plans.
I think it’s key that the NCAA and its schools work to implement and improve their concussion management plans. Steps like providing more comprehensive education on the signs and symptoms of concussion and dangers of concussions are important. Better education of coaches and certainly hiring more athletic trainers can help protect the health of college athletes.
What do you think of these findings? What changes or improvements would you suggest? Share your ideas here!