New advice on concussions from NCAA panel

Updated 4/28/2010 12:32 PM

An NCAA panel is recommending that all schools come up with a detailed plan on how to handle an athlete with a concussion, including exactly who has the authority to clear that person to play again.

In December, the NCAA committee responsible for safety recommended sidelining an athlete with concussion-related symptoms until cleared by a health care provider -- and for at least the rest of the day if he or she shows particularly worrisome symptoms.

Now, the panel wants schools to write up specific plans for how that evaluation process will work.

"The committee reviewed clearance," said Dave Klossner, the NCAA's health and safety director. "They want to have a physician involved at some point in the process, so that's basically a standard of care."

In its recommendations late last year, the committee said a loss of consciousness, amnesia or persistent confusion should keep a player out of competition for the remainder of the day with no exceptions. Now, the panel suggests extending that prohibition to anyone diagnosed with a concussion.

"Once symptoms are noticed, they are removed from play, and then evaluated by a health care provider with experience in the evaluation and management of concussions," Klossner said. "If they make a diagnosis of a concussion, then the new recommendation is that that individual will not return to activity the remainder of the day. ... It goes beyond just the three identified symptoms."

The NCAA Executive Committee will review the proposed legislation Thursday. The college sports governing body this week released the recommendations by its Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports.

"The cornerstone to the plan is that student-athletes have access to athletics health care providers with experience in the evaluation and management of concussions," said Debra Runkle, chair of the committee. She said those people need to have "unchallengeable authority" to make decisions without "coaching staff influence."

Klossner said he couldn't speak to how hands-on the NCAA might be in regulating each school's concussion treatment plan.

After the committee discussed the issue late last year, NCAA rules committees for football and soccer responded with their own modifications, and now the competitive-safeguards panel wants to take more steps.

"The playing rules only cover competitions," Klossner said. "The competitive-safeguards (committee) decided in order to have a consistent approach at both practices and competitions, that they wanted to go the legislative route" and propose NCAA-wide rules.