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American Athletic Conference Approves New Concussion Protocol

The American Athletic Conference Athletic Directors announced from their annual meeting in Key Biscayne, Florida.

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

The AAC Athletic Directors unanimously approved a formal Concussion Management Policy last night, per a release from the conference. It will take effect at the beginning of this year and will apply to all 21 sports sponsored by the American.

Commissioner Mike Aresco:

“We asked a group of extremely knowledgeable, well-respected and capable experts to study this issue and draft a policy that creates the best health and safety protocol.  An important objective of the policy is providing for the education of all those who work with our student-athletes in any capacity on the issues surrounding concussions.”

Each school is charged with coming up with their own plan individually; however, it must follow these guidelines as set by the conference in addition to the NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook:

  • Medical staff has the "unchallengeable" authority to remove players from the game and to return them.
  • Coaches cannot serve as the primary supervisor for any medical provider or have hiring authority over the provider.
  • The plan should outline the roles of the athletics healthcare staff within the testing protocol.
  • A player exhibiting signs of a concussion will be immediately removed from play and evaluated.
  • A player diagnosed with a concussion will not be allowed to return to play that day.
  • The process from evaluation to return to activities must be documented in the student's medical record.
  • Baseline testing for all student-athletes.
  • Annual revision of these policies and guidelines.

The policy also includes specific additional measures to be taken on the football field. Specifically, concussion education for officials, a sideline communication plan for the game day medical staff and a game day meeting between EMTs and the medical staff.

There will also be conference-wide education on safe tackling as part of a partnership with USA Football and the Heads-up tackling program, along with year-round guidelines for football practice. In spring practice, eight of the fifteen practice sessions may be full-contact, no more than two per week and not on consecutive days.

During the preseason, if there are two-a-day sessions, only one is allowed to be full-contact. A maximum of four full-contact practices may occur in a week and 12 total in the preseason. Only three practices can have live hitting for more than half of the practice schedule.

During the season, teams are allowed two full-contact practices per week and four full-contact practices in preparation for a bowl game. "Full-contact" is defined as any practice which includes players being tackled to the ground.

After some terrible concussion scares last year, and some very notable bungling of such situations, like at Michigan, it's nice to see the American taking initiative to protect their athletes. At the very least, this should prevent players who have suffered a concussion from being forced back into play by peer pressure and an overzealous coach.

At best, measures to control hitting in practice can help reduce the amount of high-speed collisions a player must endure over his career.