Study: College Concussion Protocols Need Improvement

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In September, University of Michigan coach Brady Hoke drew a firestorm of criticism (including calls for his firing) for leaving a player in the game despite what many considered obvious signs of concussion. 

RELATED: Opinion: Michigan Stance on QB Concussion Defies Belief

The athletic department later apologized, acknowledging that an error had been made. “In my judgment, there was a serious lack of communication that led to confusion on the sideline,” the sideline,” said Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. “Ultimate responsibility for the health and safety of our student-athletes resides with each team’s coach and with me, as the Director of Athletics. We are committed to continuously improving our procedures to better protect the health and welfare of our student-athletes.”

According to a study recently conducted by Harvard University, the University of Michigan is not alone in its need to improve concussion protocol. The study offers the first comprehensive look at how well NCAA concussion guidelines have been implemented, including responses from 907 of 1,066 NCAA member institutions, and the results are mixed. 

While 90 percent of respondents reported having a concussion management protocol in place, the study found there were some shortcomings in how well plans were carried out. Only 70 percent of schools had an annual educational component in place for athletes. The survey responses also indicated that many respondents were unclear about who was responsible for return-to-play decisions.

The study authors conclude that there is a need for colleges to improve their concussion management policies and enforcement, but also for the NCAA to improve its own requirements. 

“As written, the NCAA concussion policy only requires the presence of a plan and not that the plan is actually implemented,” the study says. “Perhaps the most important next step is for the NCAA to revise the language of its concussion policy to reflect the necessity of plan implementation.”

RELATED: Virginia Tech Latest to Join NCAA's $30M Concussion Study

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