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Big Ten To set concussion protocol standards for conference members

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This is a good move for player safety.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Ten Conference just announced new measures to standardize and improve the handling of concussions by it's member schools. Here's the email sent out by the B1G:

ROSEMONT, Ill. - The Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors (COP/C) held its annual December meeting in Indianapolis on Sunday, December 7, and took another step toward improving student-athlete welfare when it approved a conference recommendation to establish enhanced concussion protocols.

The concussion protocols will move from best practices and minimum requirements for schools to regulatory standards by the conference. In addition, the COP/C unilaterally adopted the establishment of an independent neutral athletic trainer in the replay booth with their own monitor and the ability to directly contact officials on the field. The independent neutral athletic trainer will be in addition to the continued presence of on-field doctors and athletic trainers from each institution.

The enhanced concussion protocols will be incorporated by reference into the existing conference-wide concussion management policy and will include reporting requirements, disciplinary action for non-compliance and a higher level of accountability for conference member institutions.

The adoption of enhanced concussion protocols is the latest step by the conference to further ensure the safety of student-athletes. In May 2010, the Big Ten became the first conference to establish a conference-wide concussion management plan for use by conference institutions. In April 2011, the Big Ten and the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) conducted the first of a series of head injury summits at the conference office, with 40-plus attendees across several disciplines. In June 2012, the Big Ten and Ivy League, in conjunction with the CIC, announced plans to engage in a co-sponsored, cross-institutional research collaboration to study the effects of head injuries in sports.

Key Details

Depending on how this is implemented, this could be a really big deal. Let's take a look at some of the key details listed above and what they could mean.

The concussion protocols will move from best practices and minimum requirements for schools to regulatory standards by the conference.

In other words, the Big Ten doesn't like the variability in how different schools handle concussions and they've decided to step in with regulations that all member schools must follow.

In addition, the COP/C unilaterally adopted the establishment of an independent neutral athletic trainer in the replay booth with their own monitor and the ability to directly contact officials on the field. The independent neutral athletic trainer will be in addition to the continued presence of on-field doctors and athletic trainers from each institution.

Yes, this is the "Michigan screwed up this season and we aren't going to let them or any other school do it again" part of the rule. The conference will have a medical professional hired and assigned by the B1G watching the field from each stadium's replay booth. This trainer will have the ability to buzz the referee to stop play so that there isn't another Shane Morris incident.

The enhanced concussion protocols will be incorporated by reference into the existing conference-wide concussion management policy and will include reporting requirements, disciplinary action for non-compliance and a higher level of accountability for conference member institutions.

The devil will be in these details, but if written strictly and clearly this could go a long way to preventing failed compliance or abuse by member schools as well as helping the schools (and possibly fans) better understand what kind of an issue head injuries/concussions are posing to Big Ten athletes. I'm guessing the reporting element of this framework never really becomes public due to HIPAA and a host of other privacy related concerns but some general reporting on the handling of concussions each season by the Big Ten could continue to help raise awareness of the issue.

Final Thought

This is going to end up being known as the Brady Hoke rule. You know, and I know it.