The culture of concussions

The NCAA’s lack of a substantial policy demonstrates its indifference to concussions.

There’s a major shortage of research and general knowledge on the prevalence of concussions in college and high school athletics, according to a recent report published by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Inside Higher Ed reported that the authors of the study want the NCAA to “undertake a rigorous scientific evaluation” and establish “large-scale efforts to increase knowledge about concussions and change the culture.”

The NCAA and professional sports leagues should work to support more comprehensive research on the causes of concussions and methods to prevent them. However, the report’s analysis of the cultural issue around concussions is also significant. Robert Graham, who chaired the committee that authored the report, discussed the cavalier way coaches and players treat concussions. Comparing them to a torn ligament, Graham noted, “nobody expects you to just wrap it and put them back in. And yet that’s what we do with a concussion.”

While coaches, players and athletics department officials should familiarize themselves with the long-term effects of concussions, the NCAA must also fundamentally change the way it handles them. Currently, athletics programs are required to develop and implement their own concussion policies. However, the NCAA does not enforce these policies, nor does it do any sort of checkup on whether they are even helpful.

Public pressure on sports leagues to improve concussion management is mounting, but the NCAA continues to drag its feet. Fans and players should call on the NCAA to develop a single, clear and substantial concussion policy and enforce it across the league.