Last month the Big 12 Conference announced its new policy for concussion diagnosis and management for its member institution’s student-athletes. The policy was developed by team athletic trainers, physicians and medical support staff, and approved by the board of directors.

From now on, all Big 12 member institutions will be required to follow the same concussion diagnosis and management protocol as the NCAA.

Any reader can go online and read the entire report. It’s pretty extensive and includes specific protocol for the roles of athletics healthcare staff, physicians, trainers, physical therapists and more. It also goes into length about guidelines for reporting injuries and illnesses and education for student athletes and coaches.

As an emergency physician certified in concussion management, I’m glad to see attention being given to this issue in the Big 12. I’ve long been a proponent of greater concussion awareness for parents of ALL young athletes – from the littlest ones beginning to play T ball, to female cheerleaders, to young men and women playing college sports. Concussion is a serious brain injury. It is unfortunately common and too often dismissed.

After reading over the Big 12 protocol, the major take-aways I see involve 8 points in order to be truly effective.

  1. The concussion management plan must be physician-directed.
  2. There must be continuing education to athletic staff/players about concussions.
  3. Players have a responsibility to report concussion symptoms. Currently only about one in seven report symptoms.
  4. Baseline metrics (testing) should be obtained to allow for post-injury comparison.
  5. No coach should serve as the primary supervisor of any medical provider – ever.
  6. The institution will empower the medical staff to have the autonomy and unchallengeable authority to determine management and return to play decisions. (This is verbatim from the Big 12 report)
  7. A student-athlete exhibiting any signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with concussion should be removed from practice/competition and be evaluated by a medical provider experienced in the evaluation and management of concussion.
  8. Part of concussion management programs should include evaluating high-risk plays and procedures and adjusting as necessary.
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