The NCAA took a big step toward refining its handling of concussions in collegiate sports Tuesday by settling a class-action lawsuit related to head injuries.
According to NCAA.com, as part of the settlement, the NCAA will create a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes for brain injuries. Further, the NCAA will add clarity to concussion protocol by putting a sport-wide system in place that will lay out how concussed athletes should be evaluated.
NCAA.com also announced that all current student-athletes and anyone who competed for an NCAA member school over the past 50 years could be eligible for the benefits of physical and neurological testing.
Jon Solomon of CBS Sports reports on what exactly will be covered in the lawsuit and how much the lawsuit will actually amount to via Dennis Dodd:
The NCAA settlement would only cover diagnostic medical expenses, not actual treatment -- a criticism by some opponents of the deal -- while preserving athletes' rights to individually sue universities, conferences or the NCAA for personal-injury damages.
Per Michael Tarm of The Associated Press (h/t ABC News), lead plaintiffs' attorney Joseph Siprut believes that this resolution is a big step in the right direction when it comes to player safety.
"I wouldn't say these changes solve the safety problems, but they do reduce the risks," Siprut said. "It's changed college sports forever. ... Changes were necessary to preserve the talent well of kids that feeds the game of football. Absent these kinds of changes, the sport will die."
Fellow plaintiffs' attorney Steve Berman agrees and believes that the changes will be beneficial to the long-term health of student-athletes across all sports, according to Ben Strauss of The New York Times:
This offers college athletes another level of protection, which is vitally important to their health. Student-athletes—not just football players—have dropped out of school and suffered huge long-term symptoms because of brain injuries. Anything we can do to enhance concussion management is a very important day for student-athletes.
While outside sources have expressed satisfaction with the settlement, even the NCAA itself appears to be pleased. Per NCAA.com, NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline is confident that the student-athletes will be diagnosed and treated better than ever before.
We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA's foundational principles. Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement's proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.
There are several aspects to the settlement that could change the nature of head injuries in college sports forever, but CNN's Sara Ganim believes that none of them are more significant than the new in-game protocol:
Since college athletes will no longer be able to re-enter a game or event after getting concussed, it should further reduce the risk of long-term effects.
Even so, National Sports Law Institute director Matthew J. Mitten stressed the importance of the NCAA being consistent and thorough across all sports and levels of competition, per Strauss.
"A national policy is a very good thing," Mitten said. "We were only able to make simple recommendations, but now there is consensus among the athletic and medical community. The trick will be enforcing it at every school and not just at Ohio State and USC."
These new protocols will take a great deal of commitment from the NCAA, but it certainly has a lot to gain from ensuring the health and safety of its athletes.
Concussion awareness is picking up steam in all major professional sports, so it is most definitely time for such changes to be implemented.
Given the importance of preventing and treating head injuries, this could very well prove to be a landmark moment in the history of collegiate sports.
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