Jan 29, 2015New Guidelines Presented
In Atlanta this past January, the College Athletic Trainers’ Society and the NCAA Sport Science Institute hosted a “Safety in College Football Summit,” which brought together sports medicine personnel, members of the American Football Coaches’ Association, and representatives from several conferences. The result of that summit was the foundation of several recently-released guidelines on student-athlete safety.
These guidelines are not official rules yet, but they provide coaches and schools with the ability to better prevent and care for student-athlete injuries. They relate to three areas: year-round football practice contact, independent medical care for student-athletes, and diagnosis and management of sport-related concussion.
Regarding year-round football practice, several limitations were suggested, such as no more than “two live contact practices per week” during the preseason, regular season, and bowl season, and no more than eight practices involving live contact during the 15 spring practices allowed.
On the topic of independent medical care, the guidelines called for a line of authority to be established “independent of a coach,” as well as the designation of a “licensed physician to serve as a medical director” who would have the “unchallengeable autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions of student-athletes.”
Regarding head injuries, the guidelines ask for schools to make their concussion policy available to the public. They also suggest that return-to-play and return-to-academics decisions should be managed carefully with a gradual return, and that an athlete with a sport-related concussion should be held out from play or practice that same day.
Coaches have been enthusiastic about the guidelines. “To have the NCAA, our medical professionals, coaches, school and conference administrators working collectively, speaks volumes about the desire to ensure the health and safety of our players,” said Duke University Head Football Coach David Cutcliffe.
Outsiders have also praised the guidelines. “I think for what it was intended to do, it addresses a lot of the gaps that existed that left college athletes at risk,” Chris Nowinski, Executive Director of The Sports Legacy Institute, told CBS Sports. “I think it was an impressive effort by a lot of people to put it together quickly with so many organizations involved. Now it needs to be monitored if it’s actually implemented and adopted by individual schools.”
Although some, including Ramogi Huma, who is leading college athletes’ unionization process, complained that the guidelines are unenforceable, Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer, told CBS that creating guidelines rather than rules made the approval process faster. “I’ve never seen a coming together in a six-month period of time like this,” he said. “It was almost like magic was happening. I’m just so thrilled.”