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Wrestling Rules Committee Recommends Concussion Evaluation Proposal

Greg Johnson



New precautions for concussions may soon be coming to college wrestling.


The NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee this week recommended a rules change that would allow medical personnel an unlimited and unimpeded amount of time for concussion evaluation of wrestlers, beginning in the 2016-17 season.


All rules recommendations must be approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss wrestling rules proposals via teleconference June 15.


The committee, which met April 11-13 in Indianapolis, also recommended, in cases of uncertainty, that medical staff be given the ability to remove participants from the wrestling area to perform a concussion evaluation.


During the evaluation, the match will be suspended until a decision is rendered by the medical professional. The referee, the coaches of both participants and the non-injured wrestler would be required to remain on the mat during the evaluation.


A concussion evaluation timeout will not count as an injury timeout or recovery timeout. Coaching of the wrestler being evaluated would not be permitted.


In a separate recommendation from the rules committee, the injured wrestler would not be permitted to be coached during all other non-bleeding injury timeouts.


“Both of these new rules proposals are about providing medical personnel dedicated and uninterrupted time with the injured athlete so they can make a more accurate health and safety decision in an already limited timeframe,” said NCAA Wrestling Secretary-Rules Editor Chuck Barbee.


In the case of a severe or traumatic situation, medical personnel may request the wrestler’s coach to assist in calming the injured wrestler. However, coaches would be required to remove themselves from the situation during any assessment period related to the injury or concussion evaluation.


Both proposals were issued as interpretations during the 2015-16 wrestling season based on recommendations made at the NCAA Sports Science Institute Wrestling Summit in July 2015.


 “These rules recommendations are a good indicator of the committee’s commitment to continuing to explore and advance new rules that positively impact the student-athlete’s health and safety, Barbee said.


During the meeting, the committee also reviewed rules that went into effect in the 2015-16 season and had extensive discussions about possible new rules that could be considered for the 2017-2018 season.


“Overall, the committee is pleased that for the 2016-17 season, other than our health and safety rules, we have no additional new or experimental rules that will be recommended for implementation,” Barbee said. “This rule change respite should allow for everyone to continue to improve and perfect the application of our existing rules.”


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Former Wrestlers Team Up Against World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Regarding Concussions

(Editor’s Note: What follows is an article written by Sports Law Professor Michael S. Carroll, PhD and  Andrew L. Goldsmith, PhD about the concussion litigation involving the WWE. To see the full story, subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter at this link – https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

Growing concern over the past few years regarding the impact of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and concussions among athletes in contact sports has resulted in a number of policy and rule changes within a variety of sport organizations. Additionally, litigation has ensued against a number of these organizations, including the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), mostly based in negligence liability. Although concussions and TBI are most often associated with the sport of football, especially given the recent high-profile $765 NFL concussion settlement, athletes in other sports often face the same if not more extreme physical contact and violence. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. (WWE) has operated in the US since 1952, providing professional wrestling entertainment to hundreds of millions of fans through television, film, music, videogames, product licensing, and product sales. It is the largest professional wrestling organization in the world, and hosts hundreds of events a year that are broadcasted to over 650 million viewers in over 170 countries. WWE provides sports entertainment, which could be described as aggressive ballet, to viewers through semi-scripted contests and events between wrestlers, while simultaneously following various storylines. Violence and aggression are a natural part of professional wrestling, and injuries are quite common among wrestlers, sometimes serious in nature.

In October of 2014, former professional wrestler, William Albert Haynes, filed a class action lawsuit in the United Stated Court for the District of Oregon against the WWE in regards to TBI and concussions (Haynes v. World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc., Case 3:14-cv-01689-ST, 2014). The proposed Class was defined as:

All persons who currently or formerly wrestled for World Wide Entertainment or a predecessor company, and who reside in the United States.

Excluded from the Class are Defendant, any entity in which Defendant have a controlling interest or which has a controlling interest of Defendant, and Defendant’s legal representatives, assigns and successors. Also excluded are the judge to whom this case is assigned and any member of the judge’s immediate family (p. 33).

Haynes wrestled in the WWE for two years, from 1986 to 1988, during which time he wrestled approximately 26-27 days a month, including 97 days in a row at one point. Haynes claims that he was perpetually exhausted during this time, making him more susceptible to injury as well as injuring others. During his tenure with the WWE, Haynes claims that he sustained numerous injuries and was pressured by the WWE to continue wrestling through them, including those relating to his head. He estimates that he suffered at least 15 concussions during his entire wrestling career and many more sub-concussive blows. He claimed … (To subscribe to Concussion Litigation Reporter, visit https://concussionpolicyandthelaw.com/subscribe/)

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ImPACT Selected by New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal to Support Head Injury Prevention Program

ImPACT Applications, Inc., developer of the ImPACT® test and ImPACT Concussion Management Model, has announced a partnership with New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal (NYSIR), provider of property and casualty insurance programs for New York State public schools and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), to introduce “a comprehensive” Head Injury Prevention Program.

The Head Injury Prevention Program is designed to help subscriber school districts manage student athlete injuries and train faculty and staff to recognize, respond to and prevent school-sports-related concussions. NYSIR’s program utilizes ImPACT for neurocognitive baseline and post-injury concussion testing and to educate athletic directors, trainers, coaches, physical education instructors and school nurses on concussion management.

ImPACT testing and training is currently being phased in by NYSIR and by the end of February, NYSIR plans to have the Head Injury Prevention Program in every subscriber school district—over 350 New York public school districts altogether.  School sports covered by NYSIR’s agreement with ImPACT will include football, basketball, diving, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, baseball, softball, cheerleading, field hockey, wrestling and alpine skiing.

“For 26 years,” notes NYSIR President Carleen Millsaps, “we have been a leading insurer of New York’s public schools. The ImPACT-NYSIR partnership is a giant leap forward in our endeavors to continually provide programs and services that protect our subscribers’ student athletes, and a positive step in the education of school officials and staff about the risks of sports related head injuries.”

“ImPACT is honored to partner with NYSIR in its Head Injury Protection Program,” says Michael Wahlster, Chief Executive Officer of ImPACT Applications. “The organization is leading a national trend where innovative insurers recognize the important role they can play in helping subscribers implement an end-to-end concussion management program.”

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