NCAA Settles Lawsuit, Institutes New Concussion Rules

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
July 29 2014 11:10 AM

NCAA Settles Lawsuit, Institutes New Concussion Rules

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Tim Tebow in 2009 during a college game where he was concussed.

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The NCAA has agreed to a new set of rules for how to deal with athletes suffering from concussions as part of a preliminary settlement in a lawsuit brought by former college athletes.

The new rules would demand that student athletes who have suffered concussions be kept out of games or practices for at least that day. The rules would apply to contact sports such as football, hockey, soccer, basketball, wrestling, field hockey, and lacrosse. Medical staff will now be required to be on hand during all such sports. 

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The settlement also includes a $70 million fund to pay for neurological testing for student athletes who qualify after having completed a questionnaire designed by medical experts. The settlement does not preclude future lawsuits for specific damage claims stemming from head injuries.

Earlier this month, a federal judge gave preliminary approval to a settlement between the NFL and former players for the league to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars to ex-players with neurological symptoms. As the New York Times noted, assessing the costs of damages is more difficult for the NCAA:

While there are about 4,500 former N.F.L. players, there are close to four million former college athletes, and 1.4 million in contact sports. Their experiences vary drastically, [lead plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steve] Berman said, making monetary damages difficult to address.
“It’s hard to create one class that includes swimmers and football players, given how different their athletic careers are,” said Berman, who added that the N.C.A.A., too, wanted only to discuss policy changes rather than financial rewards. “We felt individuals remain best off bringing individual suits, which they can still do.”

A report by the NCAA Injury Surveillance System put the total number of concussions between 2004 and 2009 at more than 29,000, with more than 16,000 having happened to football players.

Jeremy Stahl is a Slate senior editor. You can follow him on Twitter.