The NCAA has issued new guidelines meant to improve student-athlete safety, including limited full contact practices, and improving medical care for athletes. The guidelines are not binding, because they’re not legislative rules.
The guidelines are part of a six-month long joint project of the NCAA, College Athletic Trainers’ Society, prominent medical organizations, college football coaches, administrators, and conference commissioners.
Some of the proposed guidance is already being legislated in some football conference. The Pac-12 and Ivy League both limit in-season contact practices, for instance.
The NCAA has provided the following highlights of the proposed guidelines:
Year-round football practice contact:
- Preseason: For days when schools schedule a two-a-day practice, live contact practices are only allowed in one practice. A maximum four live contact practices may occur in a given week, and a maximum of 12 total may occur in the preseason. Only three practices (scrimmages) would allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of the practice schedule.
- Inseason, postseason and bowl season: There may be no more than two live contact practices per week.
- Spring practice: Of the 15 allowable sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight practices may involve live contact; three of these live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages). Live contact practices are limited to two in a given week and may not occur on consecutive days.
Independent medical care for college student-athletes:
- Institutional medical line of authority should be established independently of a coach, and in the sole interest of student-athlete health and welfare.
- Institutions should, at a minimum, designate a licensed physician (M.D. or D.O.) to serve as medical director, and that medical director should oversee the medical tasks of all primary athletics health care providers.
- The medical director and primary athletics health care providers should be empowered with unchallengeable autonomous authority to determine medical management and return-to-play decisions of student-athletes.
Diagnosis and management of sport-related concussion:
- Institutions should make their concussion management plan publicly available, either through printed material, their website, or both.
- A student-athlete diagnosed with sport-related concussion should not be allowed to return to play in the current game or practice and should be withheld from athletic activity for the remainder of the day.
- The return-to-play decision is based on a protocol of a gradual increase in physical activity that includes both an incremental increase in physical demands and contact risk supervised by a physician or physician-designee.
- The return to academics should be managed in a gradual program that fits the needs of the individual, within the context of a multi-disciplinary team that includes physicians, athletic trainers, coaches, psychologists/counselors, neuropsychologists, administrators as well as academic (e.g. professors, deans, academic advisors) and office of disability services representatives.