Concussion Management Requirements for NCAA Institutions
In November 2019, the federal class action lawsuit Arrington v. NCAA resulted in athletic concussion compliance requirements for NCAA members. Colleges and universities who certified they had adopted specific concussion management protocols by the settlement’s deadline were released from certain liability claims under the agreement. But the settlement has implications beyond the initial certification requirement. Here’s what you need to know about the settlement agreement and how it impacts NCAA-member schools and their concussion-related policies and procedures.
Three Key Requirements
The agreement, which occurred in a federal class action lawsuit related to concussion management and medical monitoring brought by former NCAA student-athletes, requires:
- NCAA members to create a medical monitoring program for former NCAA student-athletes who are part of the settlement class
- NCAA members to establish concussion protocol provisions before the May 18, 2020, due date that allowed them to be released from certain liability claims going forward if they certified compliance by that date
- The NCAA to establish additional education practices and reporting channels
Medical Monitoring Program
The settlement’s main goal was to establish a medical monitoring program for people who played a sanctioned sport at an NCAA member institution on or before July 15, 2016. The program offers medical screening to these former student-athletes for symptoms related to persistent post-concussion syndrome as well as cognitive, mood, behavioral, and motor problems that may be associated with mid- to late-life onset diseases that may be linked to concussions or sub-concussive hits.
Institutions who met the May 2020 deadline to certify compliance with the settlement provisions will avoid liability for:
- Any claims by the settlement class members seeking damages or relief for medical monitoring for concussions or sub-concussive hits or contact
- Class-action claims relating to concussions or sub-concussive hits or contact sustained during collegiate sports as an NCAA student-athlete
Student-athletes can still bring other claims, including individual personal or bodily injury and class-action claims for injuries in a single sport at a single school. Indeed, some “single-sport, single institution” putative class-action lawsuits for football players’ bodily injuries are pending against the NCAA and many conferences and institutions.
Institutions Must Certify Concussion Plans
As part of the certification, NCAA member institutions also had to certify to settlement representatives that their concussion management plan included specific return-to-play guidelines. The NCAA provided step-by-step instructions and FAQs about the certification process.
The following is a summary of protocols NCAA institutions had to certify they adopted, as indicated in the Sample Certification Form:
- Prior to practicing or competing, NCAA student-athletes will undergo preseason baseline testing for each sport in which they participate.
- NCAA student-athletes diagnosed with concussions will not be allowed to play or participate in any practice or game on the same day in which the concussion was sustained.
- Any NCAA student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion by medical personnel must be cleared by a physician before being allowed to play in practice or competition.
- Medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of concussions will be present at games, and available during practices, for contact sports .The settlement defines these sports as NCAA men’s or women’s lacrosse, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer, basketball, and football.
This final protocol regarding medical personnel presence at games and availability at practices for contact sports was a significant change for some institutions.
NCAA Agreed to Provide Education, Training, Reporting
The settlement also placed separate responsibilities on the NCAA. The NCAA agreed that it would:
- Require members to provide NCAA-approved concussion education and training to student-athletes, coaches, and athletic trainers before every season for the medical monitoring period’s 50-year duration
- Provide educational materials to members annually for faculty use regarding suggested academic accommodations for student-athletes who sustained concussions
- Create two new reporting mechanisms (with NCAA details forthcoming): For members to report concussion diagnoses and resolutions to the NCAA; and for third parties, such as student-athletes and/or their parents, to report concerns about concussion management issues to the NCAA
More From UE
About the Author
Christine McHugh, Esq.
Senior Risk Management Counsel
Christine’s areas of expertise include employment law, sexual assault prevention, protection of minors, traumatic brain injury, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. Before joining the Risk Research team, she handled UE liability claims for several years. She previously practiced employment and higher education law.