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NCAA makes progress in preventing brain injuries

We have discussed athletes suffering brain injuries quite a bit in this Michigan Personal Injury Law Blog. This is because the NFL, of course, has become the subject of many lawsuits recently related to players sustaining brain damage on the field, and there is also a growing public concern regarding the effects of concussions in high school sports. We have not written much about head injuries in college athletics, but of course athletes are often subject to such injuries at that level as well.

The NCAA has actually made some changes in recent years in order to keep college players safe from traumatic brain injuries, specifically in football. One change alone--moving the kickoff five yards closer--has resulted in a 50 percent reduction in concussions since the change was implemented last year. Another significant rule change has been to require players whose helmets come off to sit out for the next play. This change has apparently had a dramatic effect on the number of times helmets pop off.

While the NCAA is making some changes to enhance the safety of student athletes, it is still leaving much of this responsibility to the individual colleges and universities in the league. The NCAA has concussion management guidelines and requires its member schools to have their own concussion management policies but it does not provide oversight of the schools' enforcement of concussion management policies.

In January, the NCAA did bring on its first ever chief medical officer to lead the NCAA’s Sports Science Institute and he has stated that the NCAA might eventually need to enforce concussion management practices.

It is important that athletic organizations remain committed to preventing brain injuries because they can have lifelong consequences, including disability, depression, memory loss, brain damage and more. Of course, the medical expenses related to a brain injury are also very difficult to manage. Those who sustain brain injuries may benefit from seeking legal counsel to learn whether it is possible to obtain compensation for their medical expenses and other costs.

Source: utsandiego.com, "NCAA works to prevent brain injuries," Stefanie Loh, April 28, 2013

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