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Waiting for a unified concussion policy across collegiate sports
Published 7/3/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Confusion, fogginess and headache; all symptoms of which the NCAA deals with on a frequent basis.

According to the NCAA, they have “taken a leading role in ensuring that athletes are properly protected from and treated for concussions.”

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) asked the NCAA to take the lead on concussions after the SEC gathered multitudes of research on the subject. The NCAA responded with the creation of the Concussion Task Force.

“If you’re looking for when the NCAA will say across the board two full practices a week, we don’t even have agreement yet what that means,” said Dr. Brian Hainline to Jon Solomon of AL.com, the NCAA’s top medical official and head of the concussion task force.

Hainline said they have yet to come up with the definition of a full-contact practice.

“A full-contact practice in which the focus is on technique is different than just bringing people down and slamming their head to the ground,” Hainline said. “That is a point of very active discussion in terms of defining what that exactly is.”

The Ivy League Schools limited full contact practices to twice a week over two years ago after gathering research.

Following in their footsteps, the Pac-12 announced in a press release in early June that they have created a “Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative” that will begin in the 2013-14 academic year.

The initiative is to include a “steering committee of the top doctors and researchers from Pac-12 institutions … and commit $3.5 million in research grants for projects at Pac-12 institutions aimed at improving student-athlete health and well-being.”

The Pac-12 said that it will implement some contact reduction. However, the specifics will be announced July 26 at the Pac-12 football media day.

In an interview with the Spokesman-Review, WSU Head Football Coach Mike Leach said he doesn’t expect the new rules to impact his practice schedule at all, due to the fact that they already have shorter practices with less contact than most.

The standard set by the NCAA on concussions, stated in the 2012-13 Sports Medicine Handbook, includes a Concussion Management Plan Legislation. The legislation outlines that there must be a plan in place at every university, which should include four parts.

First, the institution is to enact an educational process for student-athletes to learn the signs and symptoms of concussions.

It is also expected that a student-athlete suspected of a concussion be removed from athletic activities and evaluated by a qualified staff member, according to the handbook.

Additionally, the student-athlete should not reenter the field of play for at least the remainder of the day.

Finally, before engaging in physical activity, a student-athlete should be cleared by a qualified staff member.

Bill Drake, Assistant Athletic Director of Athletic Training for WSU, said that when there is a suspected concussion for any team, the steps include a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) III evaluation form comprised of 23-26 symptoms to check for.

Drake also said that upon arrival to WSU, student-athletes take a computer-generated neuro-pysch test called the ImPACT test. It is one of the many tools that can be used.

“It’s a good baseline study,” Drake said. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

After being diagnosed and completing the recovery process, the results can then be compared to the student-athletes’ baseline.

Drake’s biggest concerns include sub-concussive hits and responding correctly to the first concession.

“Tell us right away so that we can find the right time to get you back to play,” Drake said. “If you tell us right away, you’re going to sit out a shorter amount of time than you will if you hide it and keep banging your head.”

Drake said athletes often try and hide their symptoms. They learn the hard way when the first concussion isn’t handled appropriately, he said.


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