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Concussion Safety Protocol Management

This page includes information about the NCAA Concussion Safety Protocol Review Process.

This page includes information about the changes to the 2021 NCAA Division I Concussion Safety Protocol Review Process and certain updates to legislative and policy requirements pertaining to concussion management practices.  Specifically, schools should be aware of the following changes:

The Division I Concussion Safety Protocol Review Process was initiated in January 2015, when the five Division I conferences with autonomy around student-athlete well-being matters passed concussion safety protocol legislation that built upon previous NCAA concussion legislation. The legislation stated that each Autonomy school must submit a concussion safety protocol to the Concussion Safety Protocol Committee – also created by the legislation – for review on an annual basis. The structure of Division I legislation also gives discretion to Division I non-autonomy conferences, or to their institutions at the discretion of each non-autonomy conference, to apply the autonomy legislation and opt into participation in the protocol review process.

In spring 2020 the NCAA Division I Council notified Division I member schools that, in an effort to provide support and flexibility to those member schools that had been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual obligation to submit a concussion safety protocol pursuant to NCAA Division I Constitution 3.2.4.20.1 would be waived for the 2020-21 academic year.

In anticipation of a continuing COVID-19 burden on institutional resources across divisions as athletics health care personnel manage and support heavy practice, competition and championship schedules, and in recognition of the availability of the Checklist, corresponding Protocol Template and other NCAA educational resources, the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sport (CSMAS) recommended that the waiver be extended for the 2021 reporting year. The NCAA Division I Council Coordination Committee recently approved the CSMAS recommendation and extended the original waiver for the 2021 reporting year such that no protocol submission will be required for the 2021-22 academic year. 

The Division I legislative waiver does not change the obligation of all schools in all divisions to maintain an appropriate concussion management plan, including a concussion safety protocol that is consistent with the Checklist. In light of the availability of the Checklist, corresponding Protocol Template and other educational resources, member schools have access to all the tools necessary to comply with applicable concussion protocol management legislation regardless of participation in the annual protocol submission process. This idea has been formally recognized in Divisions II and III where member schools have historically relied on diligent use of the Protocol Template and other available tools in lieu of an annual submission process. 

The Checklist is reviewed annually by the NCAA Concussion Safety Advisory Group to determine whether available research data and accepted industry practices may warrant revisions to its content. At its February 2021 meeting and based on the results of this annual review process, CSMAS approved several updates to the Checklist. To facilitate and support member compliance with concussion legislation, the NCAA maintains the Protocol Template, which includes all components of the Checklist and may be customized by member schools to accommodate and reflect their individual needs and practices. Updates to Checklist content have been incorporated as corresponding updates in the Protocol Template.

In addition to maintaining a concussion management plan that includes an updated concussion safety protocol, member schools in all three divisions are required to comply with the Interassociation Recommendations: Preventing Catastrophic Injury and Death in Collegiate Athletes (Catastrophic Recommendations), which contain content specific to concussion management. These recommendations were unanimously endorsed by the NCAA Board of Governors and announced as Association-wide policy under the Uniform Standard of Care Procedures in the summer of 2019. 

We encourage all member schools to carefully review and understand the most recent updates to the Checklist, and related concussion management legislation, policies and guidance, and work with applicable institutional personnel to ensure any necessary adjustments to their concussion management practices are properly and timely implemented.

In the Resources box, member schools can find concussion-related resources regarding the creation and upkeep of concussion management plans. Included are the Checklist, the Protocol Template and Catastrophic Recommendations, all of which serve as guidance for the development and updates to concussion management practices at all member schools. Additionally, a frequently asked questions page has been created in an effort to proactively address some of the most anticipated membership questions related to these institutional review and update activities.

Updated: April 2021