Brain Injuries and the NCAA

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was founded by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 1900s in response to the brutality of college football.  Deaths and injuries continued to increase until action was taken.  Originally, player safety was a key objective of the Association.  Since then, with the concussion crisis spanning decades and the limited response from the Association, it seems the NCAA has lost focus on its mission.

The NCAA sponsored a study on 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 Association waited almost 10 years to begin to make guidelines for concussion best practices.  Historically, the NCAA left the enforcement of return-to-play rules to the schools.  Instead of drafting one standard return to play protocol, the Association allowed each school to create their own policies.  With the NCAA creating rules regarding topics ranging from signing autographs to consumption of meals, some feel the NCAA is only concerned with making money and not player safety.

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 to 14 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.

Attorney Jason E. Luckasevic has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA alleging that the Association concealed knowledge of the long-term neurological effects caused by brain injuries received during football hits.  

The Association has reached a proposed settlement in the class action concussion lawsuit for all athletes that played an NCAA-sanctioned sport at an NCAA member school prior to July 15, 2016.  You do not need to have been diagnosed with a concussion to be a member of the Medical Monitoring Class.

Conditions of the proposed settlement include:

  • Medical Screening – a Questionnaire used to determine if medical monitoring is needed (to be completed once every five (5) years until the age of 50 then up to once every (2) years after the age of 50
  • Medical Monitoring – medical evaluations for players with qualified symptomology on Questionnaires (up to two times over the next 50 years).
  • Medical Monitoring Fund ($70 million) created by the NCAA and its insurers to fund the Medical Monitoring Program as well as pay other costs.
  • NCAA to contribute $5,000,000, over a period not to exceed 10 years, to research the prevention, treatment, and/or effects of concussions.
  • changes to NCAA concussion management policies:
    • Baseline Testing: Every student-athlete will undergo pre-season baseline testing for each sport in which they participate prior to participating in practice or competition.
    • No Same Day Return to Play: A student-athlete who has been diagnosed with a concussion will be prohibited from returning to play or participating in any practice or game on that same day and must be cleared by a physician before being permitted to return to play in practice or competition.
    • Medical Personnel at Contact Sports* Games and Available for Practices: NCAA member schools will be required to have medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions present at Contact Sports games and available during Contact Sports practices.
    • Reporting Process: The NCAA will create a reporting process through which member schools will report diagnosed concussions in student-athletes and their resolution, as well as a reporting mechanism through which anyone can report concerns about concussion management issues to the NCAA.
    • Education: The NCAA will also provide member institutions with educational materials for faculty regarding academic accommodations for student-athletes with concussions, and will require that member schools provide NCAA-approved concussion education and training to student-athletes, coaches and athletic trainers before each season.

*“Contact Sports” are football, lacrosse, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, and basketball.

Important Dates for the Proposed Settlement:

The deadline for most all potential class action members to file an objection to the settlement or request an exclusion (opt-out) has expired.

August 16, 2018 at 10:00 am CST Final Fairness Hearing / consideration of the request by Class Counsel for Attorneys’ Fees and Expenses and Service Awards for the Class Representatives.

NCAA Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation FAQs. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2018, from College Athlete Concussion Settlement [Link]

NCAA Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation Website. (n.d.). Retrieved May 16, 2018, from College Athlete Concussion Settlement [Link]

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If you are a former NCAA athlete (or family member caring for a former NCAA athlete) suffering from the long-term effects of a brain injury sustained while participating in an NCAA-sponsored event,

Contact us for an evaluation of your claim