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NCAA proposes concussion testing + research program as part of class action lawsuit

Details on the NCAA's proposed agreement, which includes money to research the effect of concussions in current and past athletes.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

A player getting his or her "bell rung" or getting "jacked up" used to be a part of playing any sport.

Fan and player tolerance for debilitating brain injuries - which can look as simple as a bonk on the head or as the violent head-to-head collisions that knock a player out - have been taken more seriously, after being associated with suicides, depression and other impairments in athletes.

The NCAA has not been immune to this attention; though denying a similarity between NFL's legal issues with former players, a set of former athletes have sued the NCAA for failing to protect athletes with stronger standards on concussion treatment.

The NCAA proposed an agreement to spend $70 million on concussion testing and diagnosis of current and former NCAA athletes, as part of a settlement of the class action lawsuit. The individual parties can still file personal injury lawsuits.

Assuming the agreement is accepted by the judge, the NCAA plan includes:

  • $5 million for concussion research, paid over ten years.
  • Baseline concussion testing of NCAA student-athletes.
  • Student-athletes with a diagnosed concussion will not be allowed to return to play or practice on the same day, and must be cleared by a physician.
  • Medical personnel with training in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions must be present for all games and available during all practices.
  • Establish a process for schools to report diagnosed concussions and their resolution.
  • Establish a process for athletes and parents to report concerns about concussion management to the NCAA.

The $70 million for the Medical Monitoring Fund will come in part from the NCAA's insurers; the money will be paid into the fund in increments every ten years.

A 50-year medical monitoring program will screen for long-term concussion-related damage in current and former athletes in any sport on any NCAA level.

"We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles," said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline. "Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions."

The issue of concussions has been hotly debated on the NFL level, but NCAA athletes in every sport can suffer from concussion symptoms. Concussions can occur in young athletes as well.

More concussion research (and awareness) will help leagues better craft preventative measures - and keep athletes healthy long after their playing days are done.