EDITORIAL: NCAA’s protocol for concussion treatment lacks force

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As the National Football League hit triple digits this season with 102 total reported head injuries after Week 13, college football is facing a dilemma of its own regarding the issue.

The National College Athletic Association still lacks a singular, concrete policy when it comes to reporting head injuries and concussions. Thus, colleges have been left without a real guide for how to approach, much less how to deal with or prevent, concussions, which are becoming ever more present after the NFL came under fire for its handling of brain injuries.

Obviously, football is a violent game, and head collisions will probably always have a role the sport. But it doesn’t have to be as pronounced as it is today.

There is no secret in the correlation between crucial brain damage and the constant helmet-to-helmet collisions in football. There lies the wonderment of how the NCAA can appear to take the issue so lightly.

Regulations for treating concussions shouldn’t be interpreted loosely, with cases of former athletes being diagnosed with degenerative brain conditions, like CTE, depression and early-onset Alzheimer’s, flooding the news.

The NCAA handbook does not have set-in-stone guidelines for how to address or treat a suspected concussion. Therefore, individual institutions are responsible for implementing an appropriate protocol. At Buffalo State, there is a competent and knowledgeable training staff in place, but in the paradigm of an issue so substantial, added assistance would prove beneficial.

And the help should start from the top with the NCAA, as its current concussion reaction policy seems lazy and outdated, despite recent revisions. It leaves almost all the onus on a player to initially report a head injury.

That’s a problem, too.

For decades now, football in general has marketed itself as a “tough” sport. While that may be true, there is a fine line between tough and foolish.

A majority of college football players, especially those at the Division III level, will not make it to the NFL. So, they will do whatever it takes to milk every last second of playing time they have, even if it means not reporting a head injury because they fear losing playing time.

The masculine culture that has grown to symbolize football is also becoming its detriment. Athletes, like the NCAA, need to be more aware of this.

If bringing a potential concussion to the attention of a trainer means losing a starting position on the field, so be it. Long-term brain health is supreme to gridiron glory.

With a more comprehensive effort on the sides of both the NCAA and its players, the tragedies caused by head trauma can be severely reduced.

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