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Safety package enters Division I pipeline

By Michelle Hosick

A series of recommendations aimed at providing additional support for the health and safety of student-athletes will be considered through the regular legislative process in Division I, the Legislative Council decided Wednesday.

The action means that the first votes on the legislative package, proposed by the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, will be taken in January 2014. Despite the Board’s decision not to consider new legislation in the 2013-14 cycle, the package originated with an Association-wide committee and affects all three divisions, so it can be considered through the regular process. 

The package would require designated team physicians, coach sport safety training, certification for strength coaches and catastrophic-injury reporting. The package is intended to provide a foundation for appropriate healthcare oversight and critical prevention and response to catastrophic health and safety issues and sudden death related to athletics participation. 

While the Council had the option to consider the proposals as emergency legislation, the group decided that was not the best course of action at this time. Members supported the underlying concepts in the package but had concerns about the details, including effective dates, inclusion of volunteer and part-time coaches and the need to develop clear and transparent certification processes for strength and conditioning coaches. 

Some believed that because many institutions already are meeting several of the requirements, best-practices guidance may be more appropriate than national regulation of the issue. 

Many of the proposals will ultimately be considered by all three divisions, likely in 

January 2014. In Division I, the package was sponsored by the Championships/Sports Management Cabinet.

“We want to get it right,” said Legislative Council chair Greg Sankey. “We clearly support legislation that promotes student-athlete health, safety and well-being, but we want to make sure all issues have been appropriately addressed before implementation.”

The proposals would:

• Require at least three continuous hours of recovery time for student-athletes between any sessions (including practices and walk-throughs) occurring during the preseason practice period and after the five-day acclimatization period.

• Require schools to designate a licensed physician to serve as team physician for each of its teams.

• Require head coaches and all full-time coaches (including strength and conditioning coaches) to be certified in first aid, CPR and automatic external defibrillator use.

• Require strength and conditioning coaches (both full-time and part-time employees) to maintain certification through a nationally recognized certification program. Institutions will have the discretion to choose which certification program to use.

• Require schools to submit student-athlete catastrophic death and injury data to the NCAA annually through an online portal.

All three divisions will discuss the measures over the next year, though some of the concepts in the package are already rules in either Division II or III or both. The competitive-safeguards committee acknowledged that the divisions may end up in different places on some of the proposals, but members believed that the package addressed many realities on campuses in all divisions.