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Limit head trauma by reducing potential for collisions

Colgate introduces measures to curb amount of contact during team practices

Victoria M. Chun

As a former NCAA Division I student-athlete and coach, and now an athletics director, I have had a front-row seat to important discussions of head trauma in athletics. In my playing days, nothing short of requiring medical assistance was considered a concussion; today, a seemingly mild knock to the head is and should be treated with an abundance of care.

There are no clear or neat solutions. Dr. Merrill Miller, Colgate University’s team doctor for athletics, reminds us, “The brain is wonderfully complex, and there are no replacement parts.” Head injuries are frustrating; they are injuries that may display no outward signs to others. The timetable for healing is a complete unknown, and, truly, the only recommendation for recovery is rest.

Especially at the college level, this is not only an athletics problem. Academics suffer, as well. In many cases, the student-athlete cannot attend classes, and reading and computer work not only increase symptoms but – at a time when full cognitive rest is needed – might inhibit healing.

At Colgate, we are now reducing the amount of contact during practices. We are informing all student-athletes of the measures to minimize the risk of head trauma. In our new Athletic Head Injury Reduction Strategy, we outline the ways in which we minimize risk to all student-athletes. We also are focusing on several sports in which contact and, in turn, head injuries are more prevalent.

We did research. We consulted experts. We sat down with our coaches. We put on paper the measures that we use to minimize contact in our sports programs while still preparing our teams for success. I want our current and future student-athletes to know Colgate is committed to their short- and long-term welfare. At the same time, we don’t feel this will put our teams at a competitive disadvantage. In fact, we think this will make us more competitive.

Practices far outnumber competitions and occur in a much more controlled environment. Through the deliberate and conscientious reduction of situations that require and encourage contact, we strongly believe that we will limit not only head trauma, but other injuries, as well.