NCAA Head Injury Fund is a Start

NCAA Head Injury Fund is a Start

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Settlement provides limited assistance for concussion sufferers.

The National Football League (NFL) has had its own publicity battle regarding concussions. Professional football has been thrust into the limelight numerous times over the past several years for its handling of the issue. An expensive legal settlement is pending.

College football is also addressing the issue, having reached a $70 million agreement settling multiple concussion related class-action lawsuits on behalf of former and current players.

The settlement agreement was reached late last month and includes $5 million in concussion research as well as educational initiatives. The settlement effectively resolves a consolidated case in Chicago. The terms are still subject to judicial review and approval.

Consolidated Lawsuit

The consolidated lawsuit outlined weaknesses in NCAA policy and the settlement provides funding that some had felt was long overdue. For its part the NCAA insists that it has always had student-athlete safety in mind.

Said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. “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.”

50-Year Coverage

The settlement is comprehensive in that it covers all current and former NCAA student athletes across all sports and all divisions. Those that have participated within the past 50 years may be eligible for a physical examination as well as neurological measurements and neurocognitive assessments.

The agreement does not stop there. It also covers academic accommodations for student athletes with concussions as well as return-to-play guidelines, educational programs, research and $15 million in attorney fees for the plaintiffs. Notably, no bodily injury claims were included.

Return-to-Play Guidelines Adopted

The return-to-play guidelines are critically important as they will offer protection for athletes while the game is yet in progress. Those athletes that have been diagnosed with a concussion will not be allowed to return to play or to practice on the same day that the injury occurred. They must receive physician clearance before being released.

The settlement also covers medical personnel who must be present for all games and available at all practices. These personnel will be trained in the diagnostic treatment and management of concussions.

Additional guidelines include baseline concussion testing of athletes and the establishment of a process whereby schools will report diagnosed concussions and their resolution to the NCAA.

Under the terms of the agreement, the settlement allows individual players to file personal injury lawsuits against the NCAA. “It was a trade-off,” plaintiffs’ attorney Steve Berman told the Chicago Tribune. “We thought it was in the best interest of the (group).”

Looking Ahead

Although the settlement provides a start, ongoing concern about concussions and the long term effect these have on players will continue to be studied. The NCAA may have settled favorably, but individual lawsuits will still be heard.

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