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Division II may implement membership survey to aid in health care

In 2017, Division I began implementing the annual health and safety survey that is now under consideration in Division II. The data collected through the survey is made available to members through the NCAA Institutional Performance Program.

Division II athletics administrators may soon be able to compare athletic training staff sizes, sports medicine facilities and other health care delivery practices with other schools in the division if a new health and safety survey is implemented this year.

Division II voting delegates at this month’s NCAA Convention will determine the fate of the survey, which is modeled off an annual survey now in its second year in Division I.

Administered by the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, the survey collects information on the organizational and administrative elements of athletics health care programs, providing insight into the resources, policies and procedures schools have in place. If Division II implements the survey, the information collected will be shared through the NCAA Institutional Performance Program, allowing Division II administrators the ability to compare their school’s health care delivery with their peers’ programs.

“I think it will be a huge benefit to Division II as we go forward, allowing people to look at what they’re doing in supporting medical services for student-athletes across the board in comparison to their like-size or like-minded institutions,” says Steve Murray, commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. “It will allow us to see where we can all do a better job.”

The Division II Injury Surveillance Program Task Force sponsored the proposal to require the annual survey as part of an ongoing effort to collect more concrete health and safety data in the division. The task force, composed of members of the Division II Management Council and a representative of the Presidents Council, spent the last year working to increase Division II participation in the NCAA Injury Surveillance Program, which collects data on student-athlete injuries and illnesses. Both the Injury Surveillance Program and the new survey are designed to help NCAA administrators make data-driven decisions on their campuses, in their conferences and at the national level.

A look at health and safety data provided to Division I members through the Institutional Performance Program. If a proposal to implement the survey in Division II is approved at the 2019 Convention, Division II members will soon have access to similar data.

Division I began implementing the annual survey in 2017 based on a recommendation by CSMAS. The survey is intended to be completed by each school’s athletics health care administrator. It takes between 45 and 60 minutes to complete, but administrators do not have to finish it in one sitting. Like in Division I, it will likely be issued via email in the fall for Division II with a mid-January deadline. Results will then be made available through the Institutional Performance Program for Division II administrators each summer to review.

If the proposal passes, annual Division II enhancement funds will be withheld from schools that fail to complete the survey beginning in 2022. To Murray, a member of
CSMAS and the Division II Injury Surveillance Program Task Force, the penalty speaks to the importance they place on data gathering. “We have to be making decisions on the health and safety of student-athletes based on data — and correct data — and the only way we can do that is if everyone buckles down and does it,” Murray says.

Proponents of the proposal are sensitive to the length of the survey, recognizing it adds one more task to an already full plate for athletics health care personnel. But after issuing a pilot in both Divisions I and II, feedback on the survey’s content was mostly positive. Still, NCAA staff assisting with the survey plan to continue exploring options to speed up the process in future years.

“This is really about trying to help schools help themselves,” says John Parsons, managing director of the NCAA Sport Science Institute. As an example, he points to one question on the survey that asks how often each school rehearses its medical emergency action plan. If a school rehearses that plan only once every three years while its peers do it every year, administrators may recognize the need to analyze their procedures and adjust. 

“I think at the end of the day, what the data does is provide athletic trainers and physicians with a way of understanding what the standard of care is,” Parsons says.

For Murray, it’s a crucial next step for the division.

“Clearly, this is the single most important issue most of us are facing on campuses — medical services,” he says. “This will probably be in Division II some of the most important data collection in medical services that’s ever been done.”

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