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Concussion timeline

A history of NCAA decisions intended to help protect college athletes from serious injuries, including those that can cause a concussion.

1893 – The first leather helmet for football is worn by a player in the Army-Navy game.

1906 The Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States, renamed the National Collegiate Athletic Association in 1910, is founded in March. The 62 original members come together as a result of President Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts to reform safety standards in college athletics. To address the number of catastrophic injuries in college football, a joint committee approves nearly 30 changes to the playing rules, with most intended to remove brutality and to change the character of the game in a positive way.

1916 First NCAA Football Rules Code developed and published.

1917 – Samuel E. Bilik publishes his first edition of The Trainer’s Bible while on the faculty at the University of Illinois. It would become the fundamental text used by athletics trainers through the 1950s.

1939 All football players are required to wear helmets. 

1964 No football player may deliberately and maliciously use his helmet or head to butt or ram an opponent.

1973 All football players are required to wear mouth protectors. 

1973 All players must have a helmet “with a secured chin strap.”

1975 Recommended that football helmets meet National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment test standards, and announced that it would be required starting with the 1978 season.

1976 All football players must have a helmet with a four-point chin strap fastened to participate in play. 

1979 In football, striking a runner with the crown or top of the helmet added as a foul.

1982 – The NCAA adopts the Injury Surveillance System to provide data on injury trends in collegiate sports. A committee is tasked with recommending changes in rules, equipment and coaching techniques to help reduce injury rates.

1994 – The NCAA’s assistant director of sport scientists, Randall Dick, publishes an article that finds that “concussions accounted for at least 60 percent of head injuries in each of the sports monitored.” The NCAA adopts guidelines outlining protocols for returning to play after a concussion.

1996 In football, if the ball carrier’s helmet comes off, the play is blown dead immediately. Also, the snapper is protected and may not be contacted for one second after snapping the ball.

1999 – NCAA funds a long-term concussion study with researchers Kevin Guskiewicz, director of North Carolina’s Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center, and Michael McCrea, director of brain injury research at the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

2002 Wording added to define a “defenseless player” in football and a point of officiating emphasis is added to protect those players.

2003 – Guskiewicz and McCrea publish The NCAA Concussion Study in “The Journal of the American Medical Association on Nov. 19. That seminal study, covering 4,251 player-seasons and 184 concussions, laid the groundwork for additional research on sport-related concussions.  

2006 – Injury Surveillance System data indicates that seven percent of all football injuries were concussions. In 2004, data showed that concussions were 22 percent of all game injuries in women’s ice hockey, 14 percent in women’s soccer, 18 percent in men’s ice hockey, seven percent in field hockey, and 6.3 percent in men’s soccer.

2006 Eye shields must be completely clear to allow for quick medical diagnoses of student-athletes.

2008 The NCAA makes the horse-collar tackle illegal, revamps illegal contact of an opponent and simplifies the chop-block rule. More emphasis is placed on eliminating hits on defenseless players and blows to the head. No player is permitted to initiate contact and target an opponent with the crown of his helmet, and no player is permitted to initiate contact and target a defenseless opponent above the shoulders.  

2009 – NCAA adopts rule changes limiting the number of full-contact practices in football.

2009 It becomes mandatory for the conference to review any flagrant personal fouls for targeting defenseless players or using the crown of the helmet. 

2010  The NCAA forms a concussion working group that meets in Indianapolis. It discusses the policies of other leagues and considers putting forth legislative changes that would call for a uniform concussion policy.

2010 – The NCAA Division I Board of Directors and Division II Presidents Council adopts legislation requiring all members to have a concussion management plan. The Division III Management Council adopts a similar proposal in July.

2011 The NCAA made the three-man wedge illegal on kickoffs in football; also made it illegal for a player to go out of bounds to block an opponent.

2012 In football, the NCAA moved the kickoff location to the 35-yard line from the 30-yard line to encourage more touchbacks and limited kicking team players to be no more than five yards behind the kickoff line. The touchback spot on free kicks was also moved to the 25-yard line to further encourage touchbacks. 

2012 – The NCAA provides $400,000 grant to the National Sport Concussion Outcomes Study Consortium to examine the effects of head injuries in contact and non-contact sports.

2012 – The Ivy League adopts practice rules in lacrosse and soccer to reduce contact.

2012 The committee approved a proposal to allow a dislodged helmet (except if by a facemask or foul by the opponent) to be treated like an injury. The player that loses his helmet must be removed from play for at least one play to have the helmet checked and refitted by the team’s equipment staff. By rule, a player that loses his helmet must not continue to participate and that player may not be contacted by the opposition. 

2012 Shield-block formations in use by kicking teams have created efforts to block the punt by jumping over the blockers, causing some receiving team players to land on their head/neck if contacted in the air. This action is now illegal and the receiving team is not allowed to leap over a blocker. 

2013 Penalty for targeting and contacting a defenseless player above the shoulders or initiating contact with the crown of the helmet increased to include the disqualification of the offending player. The disqualification is subject to instant replay in games where it is available. 

2013 Blocking below the waist restrictions are further clarified to properly penalize those blocks. Further clarification was made to only allow these blocks (where allowed) when they occur from the front of the player who is being blocked. 

2014 – The NCAA and Department of Defense launches a three-year, $30 million longitudinal concussion study, overseen by the CARE Consortium, and an educational challenge, announced at the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit.

2015 NCAA Football Rules Committee allowed player tracking devices to be used for health and safety purposes. 

2015 – The NCAA’s five autonomy conferences pass concussion safety protocol legislation, requiring each of their 65 schools to submit for NCAA approval a policy for detecting a concussion and return-to-play protocol.

Feb. 5, 2016 – The Mind Matters Challenge awards event will take place in Indianapolis. Winners of the education and research challenge will be recognized and have the opportunity to present their projects which address changing the culture of concussion reporting and management. 

Feb. 10-11, 2016 – CARE Consortium research data to be presented at the Safety in College Football Summit in Orlando, Florida.

March 2-5, 2016 – CARE Consortium research data to be presented at the World Congress on Brain Injury at The Hague, Netherlands.