PRINCETON, N.J. -- The Ivy League presidents have accepted a series of recommendations made by a special ad hoc committee with the goal of lowering the incidence of concussion and subconcussive hits in football.
Formed in December 2010 to determine how the Ivy League could take a leadership role in trying to limit concussive hits in football, the committee was co-chaired by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim and Cornell President David J. Skorton, both medical doctors. The committee also included various Ivy League head football coaches, administrators, expert consultants, team physicians, and athletic trainers.
The recommendations, to take effect this coming season, include limits to the number of full-pad/contact practices that can take place throughout the football year. Also, there will be further emphasis on educating student-athletes on proper tackling technique, the signs and symptoms of concussion, and the potential short- and long-term ramifications of repetitive brain trauma. In addition, there will be a more stringent post-game League review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits.
"The presidents formed the committee because they were deeply concerned that concussions are a significant injury in football and wanted the Ivy League to take an active leadership role in developing steps and measures to limit concussions, first in football and then in other sports as appropriate," said Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris.
The committee reviewed and discussed data and research regarding concussions and head hits in football, and also looked at current NCAA and Ivy League rules and practices.
The available research suggests that concussions not only have acute consequences but also more long-term sequelae. The multiple hits sustained in football, as distinct from those causing concussion, may have a role in the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in some individuals.
"Because of the seriousness of the potential consequences, the presidents determined the League needed to take proactive steps in protecting the welfare of our student-athletes," continued Harris.
Based on its findings, the committee presented a series of recommendations to the Ivy League presidents that have been adopted and, where necessary, drafted into League legislation for the coming year.
The new in-season practice limitations permit no more than two full-contact days per week, a 60-percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. Spring practice will see the number of allowable full-contact practices cut by one, a 12-percent reduction from current Ivy League limits and a 42-percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. Additionally, the number of days that pads can be worn during both sessions of preseason two-a-days has been limited to one.
"Given the lack of data regarding the number or type of hits that may cause long-term consequences in certain individuals, the committee concluded that it is important to minimize the likelihood and severity of hits to the head," said President Kim. "Based on current and available data, we have taken appropriate steps to help ensure the safety of our football players, but as this remains an evolving area of study, future research must be monitored, and our recommendations could then be revisited and revised."
Education will also play an important role. Among other measures, schools will continue to provide information to student-athletes summarizing signs and symptoms of concussion, emphasizing the potential long-term risks of repetitive brain trauma, and stressing the need to report any symptoms of a concussion. A key component of this educational process will be changing the mentality of some student-athletes regarding the seriousness of concussive injuries.
"It is important for our student-athletes to not only recognize symptoms of concussion in themselves and their teammates but to also understand the severity of such injuries and the need to relay that information to medical personnel," said President Skorton. "Our goal is to emphasize that a concussion is a serious injury that requires immediate and proper treatment, including physical and cognitive rest, to promote healing."
On the field, education will also be at the forefront as practices will continue to include the teaching of proper football fundamentals and technique to avoid leading with the head, as well as an emphasis on avoiding hits against defenseless players.
As directed by the presidents, beginning with the 2011 season, the Ivy League Executive Director will expand the video review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits that has been in effect for the last two seasons with the goal of taking appropriate but firm action in response to such hits, including suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits deemed intentional.
While the committee's recommendations focus solely on football, the Ivy League will next conduct similar reviews of men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's soccer.
Please find in PDF format the complete report resulting from the Ivy League's review of concussions in football, beginning with an executive summary and followed by a roster of participants and consultants.
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Founded in 1954, the Ivy League includes Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale Universities, Dartmouth College, and the University of Pennsylvania, and provides the country's widest intercollegiate athletic opportunities for both men and women, with over 8,000 athletes competing each year. The Ivy League annually finishes among the top conferences in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics competitive rankings, and Ivy student-athletes annually compile the country's best records in the NCAA Academic Performance Ratings.