Open-letter follow-up

October 16, 2010

My open letter to Mark Emmert (the former president of the University of Washington who is now head of the NCAA) has not gone entirely unnoticed.

The letter was cross-posted on EphBlog.com and has generated some spirited discussion there. In the comments, Ronit refers us to the ESPN.com article States consider youth concussion laws, which reports increasing concern about concussions among young athletes (not just football players).

Meanwhile, Joni Comstock, the NCAA’s Senior Vice President of Championships, has emailed me to note the NCAA’s adoption of a Concussion Management Plan, effective as of this fall: Concussion Management Plan. An active member institution shall have a concussion management plan for its student-athletes. The plan shall include, but is not limited to, the following:
(a) An annual process that ensures student-athletes are educated about the signs and symptoms of concussions. Student-athletes must acknowledge that they have received information about the signs and symptoms of concussions and that they have a responsibility to report concussion related injuries and illnesses to a medical staff member;
(b) A process that ensures a student-athlete who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion shall be removed from athletics activities (e.g., competition, practice, conditioning sessions) and evaluated by a medical staff member (e.g., sports medicine staff, team physician) with experience in the evaluation and management of concussions;
(c) A policy that precludes a student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion from returning to athletic activity (e.g., competition, practice, conditioning sessions) for at least the remainder of that calendar day; and
(d) A policy that requires medical clearance for a student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion to return to athletics activity (e.g., competition, practice, conditioning sessions) as determined by a physician (e.g., team physician) or the physician’s designee.

I told Joni that I hoped the NCAA would also consider more radical measures, such as changing the rules of the game so that bashing into people helmet-first is no longer necessary for maximum success in blocking and tackling. She said that the NCAA continues to work on the issue through a committee of neurologists, neurosurgeons and neuropsychologists.

I’m satisfied with the NCAA’s response. They aren’t going to cancel football season because some random biochemist/ultramarathoner is suddenly worried about head injuries, but my concern was heard, and they’re trying to address it, and that’s about all one can ask for.

One comment

  1. I am not a fan of football, but that may really just be latent jealousy over the attentions of certain cheer-types in high school. As I get older, though, I am pretty pleased to have been born scrawny. I almost never get hit in the head on purpose.

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