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Colleges are not Enforcing Concussion Plans, Study Reports

Update Date: Oct 23, 2014 11:13 AM EDT

Concussion symptoms and treatment are important topics that every athlete should be aware of. Despite this, a new study found that roughly a quarter of all colleges are still not educating their athletes about concussions.

"The vast majority of schools did have a concussion management plan, but not all of them did," study's co-author, Christine Baugh, a Harvard researcher, said reported by TIME. "The number of schools who reported to us that they didn't have a concussion management plan in place affects tens of thousands of athletes each year."

For this study, Baugh surveyed 2,600 colleges regarding their "concussion management plans." In July, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) set aside $70 million to fund tests and diagnostic screenings for current and past college athletes as a part of a settlement.

"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," Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer, had said in a statement. "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."

Overall, 93 percent of the schools stated that they had created some kind of plan to address concussions. However, after close examination, the researchers found that about a quarter of the schools had guidelines that did not include vital components that would lower an athlete's risk of suffering from a head injury.

Baugh reported that these schools did not train athletes on how to detect signs of a concussion, which could end up delaying when they receive treatment. A little over six percent of these schools also allowed coaches or athletes to make the final decision regarding when an athlete can return to the playing field even though they did not have any formal medical training.

"It may be the case that coaches and athletes are being extra cautious; despite being cleared by a clinician, they are withholding themselves or withholding their athletes," said Baugh. "But it may also be the case that some of these schools, coaches or athletes are pressuring clinicians to prematurely return to play before their symptoms have been resolved."

The researchers believe that the NCAA should set up and start enforcing concussion guidelines. The study, "Concussion Management in United States College Sports," was published in The American Journal of Sports Medicine.

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