The American Athletic Conference took a big step forward in the protection of its athletes Wednesday, adopting a new Concussion Management Policy at the league’s annual meeting in Key Biscayne, Fla.
The policy, unanimously approved by the AAC athletic directors, will take effect at the start of the 2015-16 academic year, and will be applied to athletes competing in all 21 sports sponsored by the conference.
Education, diagnosis and treatment of concussions has become a hot topic in all sports arenas in recent years, but has drawn considerable attention in college football and the NFL.
A press release from the conference pointed out that, “The new policy encompasses the protocol in the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook and includes additional provisions to ensure the student-athlete’s safe and successful return to activity and return to learn. The additional measures are designed to enlist comprehensive institutional and Conference support. In addition to the staff education requirements, each member institution is required to annually submit to the Conference office an Emergency Action Plan for each campus competition facility. These plans will be in effect for all activities in those facilities, and will apply to home and visiting student-athletes at all times.”
The AAC policy was crafted by a panel of experts in their fields from across The American, including sports medicine physicians, certified athletic trainers, head coaches in football, men’s and women’s soccer, and athletic administrators. UConn men’s soccer coach Ray Reid was included in that panel.
“This policy was developed to serve the best interests of student-athlete welfare,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement released Wednesday night. “We asked a group of extremely knowledgeable, well-respected and capable experts to study this issue and draft a policy that creates the best health and safety protocol. An important objective of the policy is providing for the education of all those who work with our student-athletes in any capacity on the issues surrounding concussions.”
Although applicable to all sports, the Concussion Management Policy includes additional football-specific requirements. Those include annual concussion education for all on-field league officials, a written sideline communication plan for the game day medical staff, and a day-of-game in-person meeting between the on-duty EMTs and team medical staff.
Here is the entire policy released by the AAC:
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
CONCUSSION MANAGEMENT POLICY
The members and administration of the American Athletic Conference recognize that concussions are serious injuries that require a comprehensive medical approach for diagnosis, treatment, and return to academic and athletic activities. The following policy’s primary principles are to approach each concussion individually, as every case is different, and to have a solid foundation/plan for recovery and stepwise progression for return.
Each American Athletic Conference institution shall follow the guidelines in the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook. Each institution shall have a concussion management plan in place for all sports and an updated plan shall be filed annually with the Conference office by no later than August 1. At minimum, the institution’s concussion management plan must include:
1. The medical staff has the unchallengeable authority to remove a student-athlete from and to return the student-athlete to activities/return to learn. No coach may serve as the primary supervisor for any medical provider, or have hiring, retention or dismissal authority over that provider.
2. The concussion management plan should specifically outline the roles of the athletics healthcare staff (e.g., physician, athletic trainer, physical therapist) and the specific protocol for evaluation and management of concussions.
3. If a student-athlete exhibits signs/symptoms of a concussion, that student-athlete will be immediately removed from play and evaluated by the medical staff.
4. If the student-athlete is diagnosed with a concussion by a certified medical professional, that student-athlete will not be allowed to return to play that day. Monitoring will begin and the concussion management plan for that institution will be adhered to.
5. The full process from initial evaluation to return to activities (including academic and any CARA) must be documented in the student-athlete’s medical record.
6. Baseline testing for all student-athletes will be performed at each institution as part of the initial pre-participation medical exam. The types of baseline testing will be at the discretion of the institution.
7. These policies and guidelines will be revisited annually by each institution.
The American Concussion Management Policy Page 2
Each institution must submit annually to the Conference office, by no later than August 1, all Emergency Action Plans (EAP) for each campus competition facility. This information will be available on the Conference website under the Members Only section.
Communication in the sport of Football
a. Each institution will have in place a specific sideline communication plan between the ATC, MD and EMT when an injury occurs (e.g., radio, hand signals). The types of communication will be on file at the Conference office and must be submitted annually by no later than August 1.
b. Each institution’s medical staffs will meet pre-game at approximately 30-60 minutes before kickoff during pre-game warm ups. This meeting will include at minimum: location of EMS/Ambulance, availability of X-ray/Flouroscan, and communication between sidelines (e.g., medical liaisons, radios). EMTs are required to have an in-person meeting with each team’s medical staff prior to the game.
Return to Activities
1. Return to learn and return to activity will be determined by the institution’s medical staff.
2. Activities include any countable athletically related activities (CARA). Return to learn includes any academic-related activities (e.g., classroom, tutoring, study hall).
3. Academic staff will be notified and involved in the management of the student-athlete’s return to the classroom as well as all other academic activities.
4. Management of non-sport related concussions (i.e. automobile accidents, etc.) will be treated the same as sport-related concussions with the same return guidelines.
1. Each institution will develop and determine the mechanism for providing annual concussion education to coaches, support staff and student-athletes. In addition, prior to the beginning of each academic year, the institution shall provide concussion education and shall review the concussion protocol with the medical staff (e.g., physicians, athletic trainers and other health care providers, as appropriate). Each such individual shall sign a form acknowledging that he/she received the annual concussion education.
2. Student-athletes also shall sign a form acknowledging that they have a responsibility to provide truthful information and to report promptly their injuries and illnesses to the medical staff. Coaches shall sign a form acknowledging that they have a responsibility to provide truthful information and to report promptly any student-athlete injury or illness to the medical staff.
3. American coaches will work to modify appropriately athletes’ techniques and encourage safe play to help prevent injuries.
The American Concussion Management Policy Page 3
Education in the Sport of Football
a. Football game officials will receive annual concussion education from the Conference Office staff as part of their annual certification.
b. There will be conference-wide education on safe tackling in conjunction with a partnership with USA Football and the Heads-up tackling program. The conference shall highlight and explain its initiatives to promote concussion education with respect to parents, its initiatives to promote safe tackling techniques with respect to youth coaches, and its promotion of the values of youth football.
The American Concussion Management Policy Page 4
Year-Round Football Practice Guidelines
1. Adopt the 2014 “NCAA inter-association consensus practice guidelines” purpose and background statements.
2. Definition of “full contact live practice”: Any practice that involves live tackling or live scrimmage where players are generally taken to the ground. Live contact does not include: (1) “thud” sessions, or (2) drills that involve “wrapping up;” in these scenarios players are not taken to the ground and contact is not aggressive in nature. Full contact live practices are to be conducted in a manner consistent with existing football playing rules that prohibit targeting to the head or neck area with the helmet, forearm, elbow, or shoulder, or the initiation of contact with the helmet.
3. Preseason practice guidelines
On those days in which institutions schedule a two-a-day practice, “full contact live practices” are only allowed in one practice. A maximum of four (4) live contact practices may occur in a given preseason week, and a maximum of 12 total may occur in preseason. Only three (3) practices (scrimmages) will allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of the affected practice schedule.
4. In season practice guidelines
“In season” is defined as the period from six (6) days prior to the first regular-season game to the final regular-season game or conference championship game (for participating institutions). There may be no more than two (2) “full contact live practices” per week.
5. Post-Season Practice (Bowl Practice) guidelines:
Only four (4) “full contact live practices” are allowed during post-season practice and they may not occur on consecutive days. Of the four (4) permissible “full contact live practices,” not more than 50% of the allotted practice time of each such practice shall be designated to “full contact.”
6. Spring practice guidelines
Of the 15 allowable practice sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight (8) such practice sessions may involve “full contact live practice”; three (3) of these eight (8) live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages). Full contact live practices are limited to two (2) in a given week and may not occur on consecutive days.