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CSMAS proposes removal of protein restrictions

If approved, the new protein class would become effective immediately

Athletics programs could soon have expanded nutritional supplementation options to offer student-athletes.

During its Dec. 13-15 meeting in Indianapolis, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports recommended changes to the Association’s nutritional supplement legislation – which classifies what types of supplements institutions are permitted to provide student-athletes – by removing the restriction on protein content.

The recommendation from CSMAS will be forwarded to committees in Divisions I and II, where it will be considered during the 2016 legislative cycle. (Division III has no such limitation.) If approved, the new protein class would become effective immediately.

The change has been discussed since Divisions I and II opted in the last two years to remove regulations on meals for student-athletes. While those decisions allowed schools to offer unlimited meals and snacks to their athletes, nutritional supplements were still restricted to carbohydrate and fluid replacement products, and protein supplements were restricted to products that provided no more than 30 percent of their calories from protein. But as more attention has been paid to the special nutritional needs of athletes, CSMAS recognized that schools needed more shelf-stable nutritional options, particularly for travel and recovery after competitions.

The registered dietician community considers protein supplements – such as powders and protein-enhanced nutrition bars – to be essential tools for meeting athletes’ nutritional needs. Research presented to the committee also showed many of the supplement products that met the NCAA’s 30-percent protein restriction often replaced that content with refined sugars, which countered the original intent of promoting balanced nutrition. By removing the restriction on protein content, CSMAS decided, dietitians can mix the supplements with real food, resulting in healthier recovery supplements.

While the recommendation would provide members with more options for nutritional supplements, CSMAS also acknowledged that it could open more opportunities for abusing supplements rather than relying on food for essential nutrition. So the committee stressed the need for providing nutrition education for student-athletes.

CSMAS also stressed that athletes are still accountable for their use of the supplements, which are unregulated and can include ingredients that may be on the NCAA’s banned substances list.

SSI to explore new processes

CSMAS continued to explore whether there are alternative processes it can follow in developing policy which would allow it to more quickly respond to health and safety issues. The NCAA’s Sport Science Institute will continue to work with the national office’s academic and membership affairs group to consider approaches that can help the committee operate more efficiently and respond to health and safety issues in a timely and flexible manner.

The types of changes that could be considered include altering the committee’s meeting structure, the frequency of its meetings, the committee’s interaction with each division’s

legislative structure and even the manner in which legislation is developed, which can evolve more slowly compared to inter-association recommendations and guidelines.

Currently, any legislative recommendations the CSMAS makes must pass through the legislative cycle in each division, which can take up to a year – if not more – to be approved. But to effectively respond to the current sport science and medical environment, in which changes in technology and clinical decision-making develop rapidly, CSMAS believes the Association should explore ways in which its policies can evolve in step with those changes, allowing the committee to be more nimble in meeting the Association’s needs.

The SSI staff will research the question and present CSMAS with options for discussion at its June 2016 meeting.

Health and safety push for the Institutional Performance Program

CSMAS also passed a statement expressing its “strongest support” for the development of a health and safety tool, possibly as part of the new Institutional Performance Program, to help track the emerging standards of care throughout the Association.

The Institutional Performance Program is a web-based application for Division I members that allows them to compare their institutions with their peers in areas of academic performance, finance, student population and administrative support. CSMAS believes adding a health and safety component to the program, or developing a separate standalone system, would allow schools to compare how they fit in trends of athletic training staffing levels, certifications, facilities and other topics.

“The committee believes this has the potential to be an invaluable and unprecedented tool that could allow real-time visualization of emerging standards of care for the administration of sports medicine programs, and is completely consistent with data collection and analysis trends in broader healthcare,” the committee wrote in a statement sent to the Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee. “The Committee respectfully urges the SVPC to support the initiative, including the implementation of mandates requirements for the reporting of relevant health and safety data.”

Physicals request passed

CSMAS also approved a Division II request to allow nurse practitioners to conduct physical examinations for prospective student-athletes before participation in a tryout. (The approval was previously extended to Division I basketball tryouts.) The request was made after CSMAS previously recommended that nurse practitioners whose licenses allow them to operate independently be permitted to conduct physicals.