Recent reforms impacting student-athletes were approved. Now, we take a look at some key points
On January 20, 2017, the PAC-12 reported the passage of a number of student-athlete reforms. In fact, as soon as details became available, we published those verbatim as well. The University of Washington runs an excellent student athlete program, or programs, and will have no problem tweaking the procedures to provide for these changes.
But there are two areas that are of particular interest: concussion protocol and Multi-year athletic scholarships.
Key Point I: Concussion Protocol
On one hand, concussion injuries are no stranger to UW. In fact, the university is one of the leading researchers in the field. The school is the
"“epicenter for concussion prevention advocacy, and the first law to protect youth sports concussion safety came out of Washington state in 2009 after 13-year-old Zackery Lystedt was put back on the field just 15 minutes after suffering a concussion.” – per Washington.edu/boundless/curbing-concussions"
So why is this a key item?
The NFL concussion protocol takes three strategies: I. Education II. Identification III. Evaluation IV. Post Game Follow Up.
The education phase is simply that: mandatory instruction on the causes, symptoms, effects, and treatments for concussions to all players and coaches on an annual basis. This education also requires anyone: player or coach; who suspects symptoms of concussion to report them immediately.
In the NFL, the league assures each team has an Unaffiliated Neurotrauma Consultant(UNC) for each game. The UNC is an unaffiliated physician who must monitor games from the sidelines. From there, the UNC identifies concussion symptoms, flags when hard hits warrant concussion evaluation and works with the team physicians to conduct concussion evaluations.
On the other hand, the UNC only advises, as the final call to diagnose a concussion and sending a player back into a game lies with the team doctor. The NCAA has not published a requirement for the UNC at this time.
If a player exhibits or suggests presence of concussion symptoms, that player is removed from the game to allow physicians to evaluate his condition. When a physician determines that a player suffers from a concussion, that player is prohibited from any sports related activities for the remainder of that day.
Signs of a concussion, according to the NFL’s protocol, include: loss of consciousness, lack of balance, holding head after contact, a look of confusion, getting up slowly, a blank look or a visible facial injury in combination with any of the other factors.
Post Game Follow Up
Team physician must monitor any player in the concussion protocol daily. The player is prohibitted from football activities until he has returned to his baseline cognitive function. Then the team doctor AND the UNC must both clear him for return to play.
How colleges implement this new concussion protocol will be worth noting. More voices in a determination of who plays opens the door to more controversy. Will all teams adhere to the letter of the rule, or will some team or team(s) edge towards controversial interpretation of the regulations?
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Key Point II: Multi-Year Athletic Scholarships
This point is not nearly as involved, but may be the more cumbersome of the two.
"The Autonomy Five conferences voted to guarantee that athletic scholarships cannot be canceled for poor athletics performance. per PAC-12 REFORM: Part II Details"
While this clause seems harmless enough, it opens doors to some gray areas. “Poor Athletics Performance” triggers the image of a player who landed a top scholarship and is demoted from starter to bench. That scenario makes perfect sense.
But what about other scenarios? An oft-injured athlete to the point of missing several seasons of competition? What about a player who, due to injuries from a non-sports related accident, can no longer play at a competitive level?
Ensuring the financing for a student’s education a noble and worthwhile cause. However, the cap for FBS schools stands at 85 scholarships per year. While the likelihood of multiple controversial scholarships are nearly zero, it’s an area which will need additional clarification. More likely, a school will want to land that marquis recruit, but run out of the scholarships to do so.