Student-athletes may soon have a greater voice in the formation of health and safety policies and legislation for the NCAA.
During its December meeting in Los Angeles, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports voted in support of giving each of its three student-athlete representatives, who represent each division, an individual vote on the committee for the first time. Student-athletes have held a regular seat on CSMAS since 1999 and have held one collective vote on the committee since 2003.
“Student-athletes have had an important role in helping us advance health and well-being initiatives in recent years,” said Forrest Karr, director of athletics at Northern Michigan University and CSMAS chair. “Student-athlete representatives always provide significant contributions to our discussions, and their insights help us make informed decisions. We feel that each student-athlete representative having an individual vote is the right direction for our committee and the Association.”
The move follows a trend among NCAA governance groups to include the voice of student-athletes in their decision-making processes. Two years ago, Division I gave student-athlete representatives voting power on its Council when it restructured its governance system. Division II followed by giving the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representatives on its Management Council a collective vote, and SAAC a collective vote at the Division II Business Session at the annual NCAA Convention. They joined Division III, which already had SAAC representatives on its Management Council and a vote at the Division III Business Session at Convention.
The trend continued last spring when the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee and the Committee on Women’s Athletics expressed interest in changing their voting structures to permit the three athletes on each committee to cast one vote apiece rather than one collective vote.
CSMAS became the first Association-wide committee to take concrete steps toward a one-vote-per-student-athlete structure, with four other Association-wide committees expected to cast votes to support or disapprove the concept in the coming months. The councils in each division would need to approve an amendment to the bylaws governing each committee before the change can take place.
Drug classes restructured
CSMAS approved restructuring some of the Association’s banned drug classes to address emerging doping concerns.
The committee voted to restructure the anti-estrogen class to create a new class titled “hormones and metabolic modulators,” which will include anti-estrogen drugs. The new class structure is consistent with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s classification. The change was made to expand the anti-estrogen class so all the substances that are currently identified as anti-estrogens can be more accurately represented, and to allow for the inclusion of emerging related substances. The change will need to be approved by the legislatures in each division before taking effect.
A second change to the drug classes will divide the anabolic agents class into two subclasses, one for anabolic-androgenic steroids and another titled “other anabolic agents,” also aligning with WADA’s structure. The change helps the NCAA’s banned substance list to better define the two types of substances that are defined as anabolic agents and provide examples of each.
The changes, which followed a committee tour of the University of California, Los Angeles, drug-testing laboratory to learn about drug-testing procedures and WADA standards, are intended to provide better clarity to athletes about what substances are banned and to more accurately capture the range of banned substances that fall into those categories.
A CSMAS subcommittee also was formed to further consider alignment of the NCAA’s banned drug policies with those of WADA.
Substitution rules reviewed
CSMAS also recommended to the NCAA’s Playing Rules Oversight Panel that each sports committee within the NCAA review its substitution rules and determine what, if any, flexibility might be created to reduce the possibility of injury.
The decision was made after the committee reviewed a request from an NCAA member to create an exception for sickle cell trait when substituting in soccer matches. The request was made to allow a men’s soccer player who was positive for sickle cell trait to be substituted more frequently than rules currently allow to help manage his condition. Current soccer rules do not allow for re-entry in the first half or overtime, and only once in the second half. The existing exceptions allow student-athletes to return to play without counting as a substitution if they are bleeding, have blood on their uniform or are suspected of having a concussion.
CSMAS felt the request raised broader questions for playing rules committees to examine whether substitution restrictions in other sports could pose similar health and safety risks. In particular, the committee questioned whether re-entry restrictions might provide an incentive for athletes to play through injuries rather than come out of a game permanently.
The Playing Rules Oversight Panel is responsible for approving all rules changes in NCAA sports and would be responsible for passing on the recommendation to any relevant committees. Examples of sports with some type of restriction on substitutions include baseball, bowling, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and volleyball.
- CSMAS reviewed the use of wearable technology at the request of the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees. The use of the emerging technology has raised ongoing questions among members about data ownership, privacy and confidentiality that the committee acknowledged are largely unanswered. CSMAS recommended that the Sport Science Institute hold an interassociation meeting to address the best practices for using the technologies as a way to advance health and safety practices for student-athletes.
- The committee voted to support the intent of the Sport Science Institute to establish a strategic plan that supports nine priority areas of student-athlete safety and well-being. The priority areas include cardiac health; concussion; doping and substance abuse; mental health; nutrition, sleep and performance; overuse injuries and periodization; sexual assault and interpersonal violence; athletics health care administration; and data-driven decisions.