Sport Science Institute

The revolution redefining ‘mental toughness’ and saving athletes

By Brandon Sneed

A college guy I’ve never met messaged me the other day from seven states away and said he’d had a breakdown. He’s a football player, and he left his locker room crying. “I lost my ability as a functioning student-athlete,” he wrote. He’d gone through a lot — family problems, losing his starting spot, “wanting to vanish from society” — and more. He said he was “going through a mental head game.”

 “I have been so scared to reach out and get help,” he wrote. “I felt like I was the only one.”


2017 NCAA CHOICES grant program selects winners

Here are the 2017 winning institutions and their project abstracts that they will use as a guide when developing their projects. Babson College (Division III; New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference) The mission of Babson College...

On Field Evaluation of the Injured Athlete

Sports-related injuries are the fourth leading cause of spinal cord injury, accounting for 7.93 percent of all injuries per the National Spinal Cord Injury Center. SCI can occur during any sport, but football has the highest rate of SCI, followed by ice hockey, lacrosse and rugby. Prevalence of SCI has decreased with education on injury prevention. 


Advising athletes on proper playing technique, educating medical staff about...

Inclement/Hazardous Weather

The NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports released the following statement in June 2016 on inclement/hazardous weather for athletics departments.

Inclement weather poses unique challenges to athletics operations, partly because of the seasonal and geographic frequency of such events, and because of the disparate impact on members of the athletics team. Student-athletes, most of whom live on or very close to campus, are impacted differently than coaches, support staff, and athletics administrators, who may live at some distance from campus, and who are, therefore, subject to weather conditions that may be very different than those occurring on campus. They may also have the additional difficulty of a commute.

In recent years, the committee has fielded complaints from athletics support staff who report having to journey to campus during inclement weather to attend practices or other non-competition events, even when the campus has been effectively shut down and classes canceled. These complaints become more pronounced when athletics personnel believe themselves to be exposed to personal risks to attend what are perceived as non-essential activities, and especially for practices and other obligations for sports outside of the traditional season. Consequently, the committee provides member institutions the following guidance for inclement winter weather conditions:

  1. Athletics department personnel must recognize that decisions affecting the broader institutional community also apply to them. Serious consideration should be given to the appropriateness of requiring student-athletes, coaches, and support staff to come to campus when the campus is otherwise closed and classes canceled. Local traffic authorities should be consulted about the safety of local roadways.
  2. Decisions about continued athletics activity should be centrally made, preferably by the athletics director or his/her designee. Coaches should not make such decisions for their own sports in isolation and independent of athletics administrators. Decisions should be made with the ultimate goal of protecting the well-being and safety of all athletics personnel and student-athletes. A full accounting of the disparate impact of inclement weather on athletics personnel and participating student-athletes should be made as part of the decision-making process.
  3. When a decision is made to open athletic or recreational facilities and to conduct athletics activities, standardized steps should be taken to ensure the safe access to those facilities and those parts of campus in which the activities will take place.
  4. Athletics personnel who determine that their personal safety might be jeopardized by commuting to campus in inclement and/or hazardous weather should be excused from all responsibilities without fear of reprisal or punishment, and reasonable accommodations for their absence should be made.

Supporting Student-Athlete Mental Wellness

Student-athletes, coaches, and faculty athletics representatives play a critical role in creating an environment that supports the mental health and well-being of college athletes. That’s why the Sport Science Institute developed web-based educational modules to help normalize and destigmatize mental health help seeking for college athletes.

If you are an NCAA student-athlete, coach, or faculty athletics representative, the interactive modules will provide information to help you promote mental wellness and resiliency on your campus and to encourage and destigmatize help-seeking for mental health concerns.

Sexual Violence Prevention Tool Kit

The NCAA Sport Science Institute, in partnership with the NCAA Office of Inclusion, is pleased to announce our updated resource entitled: “Sexual Violence Prevention: An Athletics Tool Kit for a Healthy and Safe Culture – Second Edition.” This document was updated in 2019 with important new information and pertinent changes since the legal and higher education landscape around sexual violence has significantly evolved. The goal of this second edition remains to address this critical issue and provide athletics departments with appropriate tools and collaborative strategies to support a safer campus environment. The new tool kit was updated with input from leading professionals in the field.

Sexual violence is embedded at all levels of society, including academic institutions. NCAA member schools can help address this systemic issue by leading prevention efforts to reduce incidents of sexual violence involving student-athletes and other college students, and by responding appropriately to them when they occur. This requires positive culture change that will happen on college campuses only through significant, informed and enduring commitment.

The tool kit provides resource-independent tools for athletics administrators in their efforts to create campus communities free of violence and safe places for students to learn and thrive.

Membership Feedback on Sexual Violence Prevention Efforts

This survey gathered responses from over 330 member institutions across all three divisions. Topics included how members are responding to reports of sexual assault and developing educational programming around prevention.

Survey results provide a helpful baseline for understanding what education practices NCAA member schools are using in sexual violence prevention. Key takeaways for each of the tool kit’s core commitments are also included in the results. If you have any questions, please contact the NCAA Sport Science Institute at

Download the Jan. 2020 Membership Feedback on Sexual Violence Prevention Efforts

Endorsing Organizations

The following organizations have endorsed this updated resource as a comprehensive approach for athletics departments to effectively address sexual violence prevention and to promote collaboration with campus colleagues to reduce sexual violence and promote a healthy and safe campus culture:

Higher Ed Associations

  • 1A FAR – 1A Faculty Athletics Representatives
  • ACHA – American College Health Association
  • APLU – Association of Public and Land Grant Universities
  • ACUHO-I – Association of College and University Housing Officers - International
  • ASCA- Association of Student Conduct Administrators
  • ACPA—American College Personnel Association
  • FARA– Faculty Athletics Representative Association
  • NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education
  • NIRSA – National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association
  • NASWIS – National Association of Social Workers in Sport
  • NATA- National Athletic Trainers Association
  • IACLEA – International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators

NCAA Committees

  • CWA – Committee on Women’s Athletics
  • MOIC – Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee
  • CSMAS – Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports
  • SAAC – Student-Athlete Advisory Committees (Divisions I, II, and III)

Additional Endorsements

  • It’s On US
  • Institute to Promote Athlete Health and Wellness – UNC Greensboro
  • The Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Education – University of Virginia

CSMAS proposes the expansion of independent medical care

During its meeting June 15-17 in Dallas, the Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports approved a series of recommendations that build on legislation passed by the NCAA’s five autonomy conferences earlier this year...

Addressing student-athlete hazing

Susie Bruce, director, Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, University of Virginia; and Holly Deering, health educator, Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, University of Virginia

“… The intention was to have a fun night of team bonding, not to humiliate or embarrass anyone. … We realize it didn’t benefit us or improve our skills. It didn’t make us close as a team, and in fact, just the opposite occurred! Our fall season was canceled, as was our spring break, and our team is on probation. 


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Safety in College Football Summit

The Sport Science Institute and the College Athletic Trainers’ Society hosted the second Safety in College Football Summit  in Orlando February 10 and 11, 2016. The event, attended by athletic trainers, physicians, concussion researchers, university administrators, football coaches and representatives from leading sports medicine organizations, was designed to update the three consensus-driven guidelines developed during the first Safety in College Football Summit held in 2014.

The attendees reached general consensus to suggested revisions to football practice, concussion diagnosis and management, catastrophic injury and independent medical care guidelines. The updates, which were reviewed and endorsed by leading scientific, sports medicine and coaching groups, are based on preliminary data researchers presented at the summit related to concussion, exposure to contact during football practices and games, and accelerometers’ ability to accurately measure head impacts. 

To view the updated guidelines, click on the links provided under “Resources”.


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