The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s in response to the brutality of college football. At the time, deaths and injuries continued to increase until action was taken. Originally intended to keep players safe, the NCAA has seemingly lost its mission against the ongoing concussion crisis.
In the past, the NCAA left the enforcement of return-to-play rules to the schools. Instead of creating one plan for the league, the Association allows each school to create their own policies. With rules ranging from autographs to meals, some feel the NCAA is only concerned with making money and not player safety.
More than 10 years ago, the NCAA sponsored studies about the effects of concussions and learned it took at least a full week for athletes to recover and that one concussion makes a player more susceptible for a second. Despite this knowledge, the league waited until 2010 to begin to make guidelines for concussion best practices.
Even with the changes, the NCAA is still behind the NFL in measurements to keep the brains of players safe from head injury. During spring training, the NCAA allows more than half of the practices to be contact, whereas the NFL bans all contact practices. While the season is in progress, the NFL limits padded practices to14 total during the 18-week season but NCAA teams can practice twice a week in full pads.
Most importantly, the NFL actually has rules for contact practices and concussions but the NCAA relies on guidelines and the discretion of the school.
Recent lawsuits and increased scrutiny will hopefully change the way the NCAA regulates concussions so athletes can continue to play in a safe environment.