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Health and safety data collection poised to expand

CSMAS also takes actions regarding concussion protocol review process, drug testing

Athletics administrators in all NCAA divisions may soon be able to benchmark their school’s health and safety procedures, staffing levels and other pertinent practices against comparable schools across the country.

The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports in a meeting earlier this month in Indianapolis approved policies and content for a health and safety annual survey that will be used to inform the NCAA Institutional Performance Program. A requirement for Division I colleges and universities to complete the annual survey was approved by the Division I Council in April. The survey will reach those campuses this fall, potentially providing institutions with a slew of new data related to health and safety by next spring. Divisions II and III governing bodies have been asked to consider a similar survey at upcoming meetings.

“Developing the Institutional Performance Program health and safety component is another important step following the adoption of independent medical care legislation in all three divisions,” said Forrest Karr, committee chair and director of athletics at Northern Michigan.

The survey will solicit data regarding the organizational and administrative aspects of athletics health care delivery, including medical personnel staffing levels, and detailed information on their fields, specialties and certifications. It would also gather data related to the size and scope of sports medicine facilities on campus and how many athletic trainers or other personnel cover games and practices. Once collected, the data would allow administrators to gauge their staffing and resource levels, along with a range of other metrics, relative to their peers.

“Information from the health and safety component will allow athletics health care administrators, and primary athletics health care providers, to assess student-athlete health and safety on their respective campuses and help ensure that student-athletes are getting the best care possible,” Karr said.

Other actions:

  • The committee identified the concussion safety protocol review process as a uniform standard of care issue and referred it to the Board of Governors for additional consideration, noting that there may be legislative implications for Division I institutions in conferences other than the autonomy five, and Divisions II and III. Currently, schools from the five autonomy conferences within Division I are required to submit their concussion protocols to the NCAA for an annual review (an optional process for other Division I schools). 
  • The committee approved an amended version of a rule-change proposal from the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Soccer Rules Committee that would create flexibility in the existing substitution rules in cases where a student-athlete has been identified with a permanent medical condition that might trigger serious injury or death through sustained exertion.  The proposal will receive further consideration from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel.
  • The committee recommended that the NCAA list of banned drug classes be renamed to more closely align with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s list of prohibited substances. This action intends to reduce confusion for those student-athletes who compete under both protocols and to benefit from the scientific expertise available to WADA. The change entails adopting “narcotics,” including heroin, as a distinct class, renaming the existing “anti-estrogen” class to “hormone and metabolic modulators,” and renaming the existing “illicit drugs” class to “cannabinoids,” among other changes. This recommendation will be weighed by divisional leadership in the coming months.
  • Concerned that secondhand inhalation or passive inhalation could cause a positive test, CSMAS voted to raise the threshold for a positive test for marijuana. New data show that even secondhand inhalation of more powerful strains of marijuana that have grown prevalent in recent years can result in positive drug tests at the NCAA’s current level of 5 nanograms per milliliter of THC. The threshold will be reset to 15 nanograms per milliliter. The committee’s decision is part of its continuing evaluation of the NCAA’s role in testing for marijuana at championship events.
  • The committee noted the dramatic increase in student-athletes testing positive for use of substances categorized as selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs, and selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMs, which have been identified as contaminants in supplement products. Ostarine, a common SARM, and clomiphene, a common SERM, have been implicated in recent positive drug tests. The committee recommends member institutions emphasize caution to student-athletes about the use of dietary supplement products, which are poorly regulated and have been implicated in the majority of positive drug tests resulting in loss of eligibility.
  • Last week’s meeting marked Karr’s last in-person meeting as committee chair. LaGwyn Durden, associate athletics director for sports medicine at Texas, will begin a two-year term in that role Sept. 1.