A committee of Ivy League head football coaches, administrators, expert consultants, team physicians and athletic trainers has been formed in an attempt to lower the incidence of concussion and sub-concussive hits in football.
The initiative was launched after Ivy League presidents became concerned that concussions are a significant injury in football and wanted the Ivy League to take an active leadership role in developing steps to limit concussions.
After reviewing data and research regarding concussions and head hits in football, and looking at current NCAA and Ivy League rules and practices, the committee proposed several recommendations that are to take effect this coming season. The available research suggested that concussions can have both acute consequences and also more long-term ramifications. Multiple hits sustained in football, may have a role in the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in some individuals. Given the lack of data regarding the number or type of hits that may cause long-term consequences in certain individuals, the committee concluded that it is important to minimize the likelihood and severity of hits to the head
The committee’s recommendations included limits to the number of full-pad/contact practices that can take place throughout the football year. The new in-season practice limitations permit no more than two full-contact days per week, a 60-percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. Spring practice will see the number of allowable full-contact practices cut by one, a 12-percent reduction from Ivy League limits and a 42-percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. The number of days that pads can be worn during both sessions of preseason two-a-days has been limited to one. Beginning with the 2011 season, there will also be more stringent post-game League review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits, with the goal of taking appropriate but firm action in response to such hits, including suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits deemed intentional.
There will also be further emphasis on educating student-athletes on proper tackling techniques, the signs and symptoms of a concussion and the potential short- and long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma. Recommendations also stress the need for students to report any symptoms of a concussion. A key component of this educational process will be changing the mentality of some student-athletes regarding the seriousness of concussive injuries.
Education will also be at the forefront on the field. Practices will continue to include the teaching of proper football fundamentals and techniques to avoid leading with the head, as well as placing an emphasis on avoiding hits against defenseless players.
While the committee’s recommendations focus solely on football, the Ivy League will next conduct similar reviews of men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer.