The NCAA & Football Concussions
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was established in 1906 and serves as the governing body regarding athletics for more than 1,300 colleges, universities, conferences, and organizations. The association’s mission is to “emphasize student-athlete safety” and NCAA claims the experience will enrich student-athletes through safe and reasonable standards. However, the stark truth is many student-athletes suffer debilitating injuries that lead to long-term medical issues. Football concussions are the biggest focus and many questions have been raised about how the NCAA deals with head injuries.
Startling Consequences of the NCAA’s Missteps
Football players have long been viewed as indestructible and tough. If a coach asked a player if he had “his bell rung” during a play, the question was not one of medical concern as much as ensuring the player could go back on the field. Having “your bell rung” is not to be taken lightly, and too often results in permanent consequences. Many times a concussion goes undiagnosed. Multiple concussions can cause long-term medical issues such as memory loss, seizures, depression, and near-daily migraines.
Until 2012, the NCAA had no concussion protocol and the rules currently in place are mostly general suggestions. There were no plans on how to treat, monitor and suspend play for a player who may have suffered a concussion. The association and universities have a moral duty to act en loco parentis; parents send their student-athlete children to college assuming they will be safe and unharmed. These are young adults with still developing brains and the assumption is they will not suffer long-term cognitive damage.
This lack of protocol was not due to lack of knowledge of long-term brain damage from multiple concussions; it was to avoid liability. By not crafting a protocol and instead attempting to delegate responsibility to the individual schools, the NCAA has attempted to sidestep liability and responsibility. While many former players agree and understand football can be a violent sport, the full extent of the damage was unknown until recently. Education of collegiate players is desired to allow them to understand the effects and make the decision to seek medical attention even if they are asked to return to the game.
Diseases & Injuries Associated with Concussions
Concussions can result in a wide range of diseases and injuries of the brain that either appear immediately after impact or rather cause the brain to degenerate over time. The most common are as follows:
- Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE)
- Parkison’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Neurocognitive disorder
- Post-Concussion Syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
The Symptoms of Brain Trauma
Brain trauma can cause many symptoms in different individuals. Some players may develop and display symptoms from a few acute concussions that manifest differently in a player with only one documented concussion. There is no exact science to brain trauma. Below are conditions reported in players with brain trauma: