Behind the Blue Disk

Publish date: Apr 11, 2011

NCAA Approach to Concussions

It’s Better to Miss One Game than a Whole Season

What is a concussion? A concussion is a brain injury that changes an individual’s behavior, thinking or physical functioning. A concussive injury can be difficult to detect since most don’t lead to a loss of consciousness and other symptoms might not be immediately apparent.

What causes a concussion? Concussions typically occur from forceful blows to the head or body that result in rapid movement of the head.

What are the numbers on concussions? The CDC estimates 1.6-3.8 million concussions occur annually in sports and recreational activities. Data from the NCAA’s injury surveillance program show they represent 5 to 18 percent of the total reported injuries depending on the sport. These numbers may be understated since concussions are difficult to recognize, and student-athletes sometimes don’t report injuries that could cost them playing time.

What is the NCAA doing to prevent concussions? In August 2010, the NCAA adopted legislation requiring each member institution to have a concussion management plan. It also funds studies and informs student-athletes, athletic staffs and sport officials on current prevention and return-to-play measures. It can also recommend changes to Association playing rules to make competitions safer.

What does the NCAA recommend for concussion management? Student-athletes should not return to games, practices or other contests when symptoms persist. Under no circumstances should a student-athlete diagnosed with a concussion return to a sports activity the same day.

Does the NCAA require neuropsychological testing? The NCAA does not require one specific assessment tool. However, its sports medicine handbook recommends a number of evaluation measures for student-athletes, who have sustained a concussion, including neuropsychological testing.

How do NCAA rules prevent concussions? NCAA rules committees oversee the playing rules of each sport and work closely with the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and other medical experts to make competitions safer.

What role do officials and coaches play? Officials have the authority to stop play for an injured student-athlete. Coaches should refer injured student-athletes for medical evaluation and should not return a concussed player to play.

You can’t see a concussion, but you might notice some of the symptoms right away. Other symptoms can show up hours or days after the injury. 

Concussion symptoms include:

  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Balance problems
  • Double or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Nausea
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Concentration or memory problems
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Feeling unusually irritable