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”.

Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation

If you played a NCAA sport at a member school any time prior to July 15, 2016, you may be entitled to free medical screening and may receive free medical testing, known as “medical monitoring,” up to two times over the next 50 years. You do not need to have been diagnosed with a concussion to be a member of the medical monitoring class. 

Current and former NCAA student-athletes may benefit from the settlement of a class action lawsuit (In re National Collegiate Athletic Association Student-Athlete Concussion Litigation, Case No. 1:13-cv-09116), which is pending before Judge John Z. Lee of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The court has granted preliminary approval of the settlement and has set a final hearing to take place on May 5, 2017, at 10 a.m. to determine if the settlement is fair, reasonable and adequate. The judge will also consider the request by class counsel for attorneys’ fees and expenses, as well as the service awards for the class representatives. 

To inform current and former NCAA student-athletes on the settlement, a specifc website has been developed to communicate pertinent details.

Concussion Safety Best Practices for Campuses

The NCAA Sport Science Institute is committed to serving and educating college athletes, athletics departments and member schools. To support these efforts, the SSI collaborates with multidisciplinary teams, content experts, leading medical and sports medicine organizations, and member schools to develop and endorse best practice recommendations. These resource-independent best practices are crafted with input from student-athletes, coaches and administrators to support the important work of our membership in promoting the health and safety of college athletes. 

Located on this page are best practice resources for member schools to support the concussion and repetitive head impact safety of college athletes.

Concussion Educational Resources

The NCAA Sport Science Institute is a leader in providing health and safety resources to college athletes, coaches, athletics administrators and campus partners. Together with leading medical organizations, behavioral health centers and content matter experts, the SSI provides educational resources for member schools to promote and support the health and well-being of student-athletes.

Located on this page are materials and resources related to concussion and repetitive head impact safety in college sport.

Concussion Safety Protocol Management

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 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

9 schools added to NCAA-DOD concussion study

The NCAA-Department of Defense CARE Consortium study is on the cusp of entering its third year and now includes 30 institutions across the country.

Experts work towards consensus on updates to football safety guidelines

Experts gathered at the Safety in College Football Summit agreed last week to suggested revisions to football practice and concussion management guidelines.

Mind Matters Challenge research winners announced

Eight winners of the NCAA-Department of Defense Mind Matters Research Challenge were recognized today at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis.

Preliminary approval granted for concussion settlement

“While we are pleased the court has provided a preliminary pathway to provide significant resources for the medical monitoring of student-athletes who may suffer concussion, we are still examining the conditions placed on preliminary...

Concussion Timeline

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.  





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