It is undeniable that football organizations have made a notable amount of progress in how they address brain injuries on the field. The NFL has enacted numerous policies to prevent players from continuing to play after an injury and high schools across the country have increased education on brain injuries before seasons begin.
However, a new study suggests college football is lagging behind most other levels of the sport. According to the report published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine, many schools fail to meet the standards set by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and about a quarter of colleges fail to educate their athletes on detecting the injuries when they occur.
“The vast majority of schools did have a concussion management plan, but not all of them did,” said Christine Baugh, a Harvard researcher and one of the study’s co-authors. “The number of schools who reported to us that they didn’t have a concussion management plan in place affects tens of thousands of athletes each year.”
Time says these findings come not long after the NCAA put aside $70 million for concussion testing and research in order to settle several class action lawsuits.
The NCAA mandates that each school create “concussion management plans,” and 93% of the 2,600 schools surveyed reported establishing such a plan. However, Baugh says a large number of the schools lacked key components for proper concussion education and prevention. A quarter of the colleges did not teach students to detect concussions and may need medical attention, and more than 6 percent of schools allow coaches or athletes without proper medical training make the final call as to whether a player can continue playing with a concussion.
“It may be the case that coaches and athletes are being extra cautious; despite being cleared by a clinician, they are withholding themselves or withholding their athletes,” said Baugh, who was a Division I athlete during her college years. “But it may also be the case that some of these schools, coaches or athletes are pressuring clinicians to prematurely return to play before their symptoms have been resolved.”