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Concussion evaluation rule proposed in softball

If cleared by medical personnel, player could return to the game

The NCAA Softball Rules Committee recommended that any player who is removed for a concussion evaluation be allowed to return to the game if cleared by medical personnel. This proposal would be effective for the 2020-21 academic year.

Committee members, who met by videoconference last month, supported the proposal, which came from the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

All rules proposals must be approved the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, which is scheduled to discuss softball rules changes July 22.

Under the proposal, the player undergoing concussion evaluation, whether a starter or a substitute, could be replaced by any eligible player who has not participated in the game.

If the injured player is cleared to resume participation, she may reenter in her original lineup position. The temporary replacement player may again participate in the game, but only in the same lineup spot, provided she is not otherwise ineligible (withdrawn substitute or a reentered starter). Should a team have no remaining eligible players, a starter or substitute who has previously participated in the game may replace the player removed for a concussion evaluation.

Video review

The committee supported allowing conferences to continue to experiment with video review in regular-season conference games and conference tournament games.

Coaches will be allowed two video review challenges during a game. A challenge must be initiated verbally or visually before the next pitch; before the pitcher and all infielders have clearly vacated their normal positions in the field and left fair territory; or before the umpires have left the field of play. Umpires would be allowed to initiate a video review from the sixth inning until the end of the game.

The following plays could be reviewed:

  • Deciding whether a batted ball called fair is fair or foul.
  • Deciding whether a batted ball called a ground-rule double or home run is fair or foul.
  • Deciding whether a batted ball called foul that could result in a ground-rule double or home run is fair or foul.
  • Spectator interference.
  • Deciding scoring plays at home plate inclusive of collisions (illegal and/or malicious slides), obstruction by a defensive player or timing plays.
  • Force/tag play calls: Plays involving all runners acquiring the base before the defensive player’s attempt to put the runner out at any base.
  • Hit-by-pitch calls: Plays for which there is a possibility that a pitched ball touches a batter or her clothing, which shall incorporate a review of the ball in relation to the batter’s box, if it is determined upon review that the ball hit the batter or her clothing.
  • Placement of runners: An umpire’s placement of all runners (per the rules/casebook) after any blocked ball call.
  • With runners on base, a no-catch call can be changed to a catch only if it results in a third out. With no runners on base, a no-catch call can be changed to a catch at any time.

The committee also added the following scenarios to the list of plays that can be reviewed.  

  • If the ball left the field of play on home runs.
  • All aspects of a scoring play/timing play.
  • Obstruction and interference at any base, only if the play in question results or would result in the third out of an inning and relates to a timing/scoring play.
  • Malicious/flagrant contact. Umpires would be allowed to initiate this review without requiring a coach’s challenge at any point during the game for student-athlete safety reasons.
  • Deciding on a foul tip/foul ball at the plate, including a dropped strike.

Additionally, coaches will have “about 30 seconds” to decide to lodge a challenge.

Any ball higher than the top of the foul pole when it leaves the park would not be reviewable. Committee members don’t believe there will be enough video evidence to overturn the original call.