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Harvard Study Questions the Handling of College Concussions

A recent study by Harvard University reports that colleges are significantly inconsistent in their handling of athletic concussions. These findings come in the midst of concerns about coaches sending obviously injured athletes back onto the football field. They also raise questions about the effectiveness of implemented head trauma plans.

According to an article in The Republic, researchers reviewed responses from about 900 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) member schools. The results showed that roughly 20% of them are operating without a standardized and consistent concussion management plan.

Researcher Christine Baugh is a co-author on the study. She is quoted as stating, “Collectively, the institutions without a concussion management plan are responsible for the well-being of thousands of college athletes each year…For stakeholders to follow an institution’s concussion management plan – or to have confidence that others are following the plan – they must first know that it exists.”

The NCAA Policy

The current NCAA policy requires schools to develop a policy for dealing with athlete concussions. These policies must be available for public review and address the following issues:

*Education on the dangers of concussions – Provided to players, coaches and members of the athletic staff. All parties must also sign an acknowledgment of receipt and understanding.

*Pre-participation assessment – Each athlete receives a baseline assessment, conducted prior to playing. This examination should consider any concussion history, cognitive assessments and symptom evaluations.

*Concussion diagnosis – Any athlete demonstrating symptoms of concussion must stop practicing or playing and immediately treated by a trainer or physician. After diagnosis, the athlete should not return to play or practice for the remainder of the day.

*Post concussion care – An individualized treatment plan is developed based on the needs of the player. A clinical evaluation is necessary to include a physical and neurological exam. A cervical spine assessment is also suggested.

*Return to play – The athlete cannot return to play until he or she has returned to their pre-participation baseline.

A Failure To Implement

The Harvard Report argues that many colleges are creating concussion plans, without adequately implementing them. In addition, the study found a considerable gap between the number of athletes who were advised about their duty to report concussions and the number of athletes who received education about the seriousness of concussions and the recognition of seizures. As stated in The Republic article, these schools appear more concerned about legal liability than keeping their athletes safe.

These same suspicions arise as fans watch college football games each week, with players forced back onto the field after suffering injuries that are obviously debilitating. When taken to task, coaches often assert that they were unaware about the level of injury and meant their players no harm. But many experts, as well as spectators, question the authenticity of these explanations.

If your college athlete has suffered from a severe, sports-related brain injury, contact the experienced injury attorneys.

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