The bottom line of lawsuits filed against the NCAA and of major conferences working out details for autonomy is increased benefits to student-athletes. Mostly, they’re measured in revenue, but a decision Tuesday that should be hailed as a victory for all athletes comes in the form of improved health.
The NCAA agreed to settle a class-action head-injury lawsuit by creating a $70 million fund to diagnose current and former athletes to determine if they suffer brain trauma by playing contact sports, according to a filing in U.S. District Court in Chicago.
A 50-year medical monitoring program for current and former NCAA athletes in any sport has been established.
The NCAA also agreed on a single return-to-play policy. Previously, the NCAA merely required each school to have a concussion management plan on file, and schools weren’t held accountable for not following the policy.
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According to USA Today, these changes reached in the settlement are among the mandates for NCAA members:
*Preseason baseline testing for every athlete for each season.
*No returning to action on the same day an athlete is diagnosed with a concussion. A 2010 survey of certified athletic trainers conducted by the NCAA found nearly half reported that athletes with concussions returned to play the same day.
*Medical personnel trained in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions are required to be present for all games and available for all practices of contact sports.
Last year, former Kansas fullback Chris Powell was among the plaintiffs who filed a class-action lawsuit against the NCAA. In January, his suit was consolidated with other cases in Illinois.
The settlement comes on the heels of schools and conferences taking the initiative in student-athlete benefits, including improved medical coverage. The settlement goes even further when it comes to concussions, the biggest safety issue. The game has been moving in this direction for the past few years with fewer kickoff returns and hard rules and game suspensions for the tackling practice known as targeting.
The lawsuit settlement, which includes $5 million for concussion research, is another victory in the quest to reduce head trauma.