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NCAA settles head-injury suit; agrees to $70M testing fund, implement common concussion rules

The NCAA agreed Tuesday to settle a class-action head-injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose thousands of current and former college athletes to determine if they suffered brain trauma playing football, hockey, soccer and other contact sports.

Also included in the settlement, the NCAA agreed to implement a single return to play policy spelling out how all teams must treat players who received head blows, according to a Tuesday filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Critics have accused the NCAA of giving too much discretion to hundreds of individual schools about when athletes can go back into games, putting them at risk.

The NCAA addressed the settlement stating;

“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,” NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline said in a statement.

Among the changes agreed to in the settlement were several mandates for member schools:

Preseason baseline testing for every athlete for each season in which he or she competes

Prohibition from return to play on the same day an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion. Generally accepted medical protocols recommend athletes not return to play the same day if they exhibit signs of a concussion or are diagnosed with one, but a 2010 survey of certified athletic trainers conducted by the NCAA found that nearly half reported that athletes had returned to play the same day.

Requirement that medical personnel be present for all games and available for practices for all contact sports, defined in the settlement as football, lacrosse, wrestling, ice hockey, field hockey, soccer and basketball. Those personnel must be trained in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.

Implementation of concussion tracking in which schools will report concussions and their resolution

Requirement that schools provide NCAA-approved training to athletes, coaches and athletic trainers before each season

Education for faculty on the academic accommodations needed for students with concussions

There is no cutoff date for when athletes must have played a designated sport at one of the more than 1,000 NCAA member schools to qualify for the medical exams. That means all athletes currently playing and those who participated decades ago could undergo the tests and potentially follow up with damage claims.

TJHN will update this story as more information becomes available.

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