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By Brian Hendrickson, of the NCAA.org
The NCAA’s committee responsible for student-athlete health and safety took steps at its summer meeting to better establish medical personnel as authoritative decision-makers in college sports.
During its meeting June 15-17 in Dallas, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports approved a series of recommendations that build on legislation passed by the NCAA’s five autonomy conferences earlier this year and would establish athletic trainers and team physicians as unchallengeable decision-makers for medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes. The recommendations would also create a new designated position on campuses – an athletics healthcare administrator – which would ensure campuses are following established best practices for medical care.
“Over the last three years, the committee has consistently worked to empower primary athletics health care providers and championed organizational structures that ensure independent medical care for student-athletes,” said CSMAS chair Forrest Karr, athletics director at Northern Michigan University. “These recommendations are another step in the process. We envision a future where each member institution, in all three divisions, will designate an athletics health care administrator responsible for ensuring that their school’s policies and procedures follow inter-association consensus recommendations and comply with all NCAA health and safety legislation.”
The committee crafted its recommendations by working from legislation that was passed by the five autonomy conferences in Division I at the 2016 NCAA Convention. That legislation will take effect Aug. 1 and provides unchallengeable autonomous authority to team physicians and athletic trainers at schools in those conferences to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes. The remaining conferences in Division I currently have the option of applying that legislation.
The CSMAS recommendations aim to shape the intent of that legislation into a consistent standard across college sports. To get there, CSMAS made three recommendations:
- One recommendation encourages leagues outside the autonomy conferences in Division I to apply the autonomous legislation passed in January. The recommendation asks that those conferences opt in to the legislation by Aug. 1, 2017.
- A second legislative recommendation asks the Division I autonomous conferences to clarify the bylaw passed in January by changing the name of its oversight position – called a director of medical services in that legislation – to athletics healthcare administrator. The name change was requested out of concern that the position could be confused with the title of “medical director,” which is established elsewhere in NCAA bylaws.
- A third recommendation asks Divisions II and III to sponsor legislation similar to that passed by the Division I autonomous conferences to establish the athletics health care administrator position and provide team physicians and athletic trainers with unchallengeable autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions related to student-athletes. The committee stressed that the health care administrator role may be given to an existing staff member rather than create an additional administrative position.
CSMAS recommendations follow those from other organizations in recent years which called for physicians and athletic trainers to have the ability to make medical decisions without fear of interference from coaches or other athletics personnel.
In 2014, the Journal of Athletic Training published interassociation best practices – of which the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute was included as an endorsing organization – which included giving physicians and athletic trainers authority to make medical decisions for student-athletes. That document was published at a time when a national survey conducted by the Chronicle of Higher Education documented that athletic trainers, in particular, function under the heavy influence of the coaching staffs: Thirty-two percent of respondents indicated the head coach influences their hiring; 42 percent reported feeling pressured to return a concussed athlete to play early; and 52 percent reported feeling pressured to return injured athletes early.
Former USC Player, Who Claims He Was Forced to Play While Concussed, Settles with School and Ex-Coach
(Editor’s Note: What follows is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the May issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. To see the full story, please subscribe at https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)
Brian Baucham, a former player on the University of Southern California football team, has reached a settlement with the school and his former head coach, Lane Kiffin, after claiming that he was forced to play too soon after a concussion, leading to permanent disabilities.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in September 2014, the plaintiff alleged that in September 2012 he suffered a concussion in a game. The next morning, he alleged, USC’s health clinic diagnosed him …
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(Editor’s Note: What follows is an execrpt from an exclusive article written by Richard Robeson and Nancy M. P. King for the February issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter. The authors are professors from Wake Forest University)
In January 2014, Judge Anita B. Brody rejected1 the terms of a class action settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and a litigation class consisting of former NFL players with concussion-related health issues and the descendants and heirs of deceased players whose deaths were related to concussions — mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI) — sustained during their playing careers. Although the amount of the settlement was agreed to by both plaintiffs’ attorneys and attorneys for the NFL, Judge Brody expressed concern that its $765 million cap would be inadequate to the medical and financial needs of not only the more than 5, 000 former players who filed suit but also some 18, 000 former players who would be eligible over the settlement’s 65-year term.2 Judge Brody therefore ordered the cap to be lifted and the settlement renegotiated. Some current players also expressed dissatisfaction with the settlement, with one player pointing out that $765 million divided by the League’s 32 teams was equivalent to one-third of the average one-year salary per team.3 Another player called it “hush money,”4 because one of the conditions of the agreement was that the NFL would not admit to any wrongdoing regarding its handling of concussions or its own concussion research.5
The renegotiated settlement approved in April 2015 by Judge Brody is now worth $1 billion;6 and over the last several years the NFL has drastically altered how it handles possible concussions7 and Return-to-Participation.8 Even so, the settlement’s exclusions9 — not least among them being that no one who retired after July 7, 2014 can benefit — have been the cause of yet more recrimination and appeal. Some plaintiffs are especially dissatisfied that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease that is associated with repeated concussions (recurrent MTBI), is a diagnosis that is expressly not covered by the settlement.10 This latter exclusion is the essential cause of the appeal, a ruling upon which is anticipated early this year. These putative shortcomings have significant implications for current players, including how the matter of informed consent may be regarded. … (To read more, subsccribe here.)