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The NCAA Needs Smelling Salts When It Comes to Concussion Regulation in Major College Athletics

48 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2012  

Cailyn M. Reilly

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: 2012


Despite the now commonplace concern surrounding concussions, the widely-recognized long-term cognitive damage caused by on-field head injuries, the preventative steps that youth and professional sports leagues have taken to mitigate these effects, and the plain words of caution spoken by professional athletes themselves, the NCAA has been lethargic, at best, in reacting to the alarm that athletes, doctors, and lawmakers have been sounding about the danger of head injuries from playing contact sports. Congress, state legislatures, sports leagues, and NCAA-member conferences have rallied to the cause, applying themselves to the task of establishing concussion management protocols and funding studies to evaluate how concussions are caused and what can be done to prevent them.

Yet, the NCAA has failed to apply its resources with similar energy, or take independent action to protect its student-athletes from being plagued by cognitive decline in their post-collegiate professional lives. This Article explains the science of a concussion, and presents the reasons why it is imperative that concussions be prevented. This Article evaluates the efforts of other sports leagues – from the NFL to youth leagues to the Ivy League – to implement concussion management plans and devote funds to studying the cognitive effects of multiple head injuries. This Article argues that the NCAA, which purports to prepare student-athletes for success off the field, has enjoyed great autonomy since its inception – shielded from government regulation and from student-athlete demands. This Article argues that the  NCAA’s  independence  has  allowed  it  to  fail  its  student-athletes by not providing proper education, guidelines, and prevention techniques. Furthermore, this Article suggests that the NCAA create an education plan to prepare student-athletes for timely returns-to-play, and urges the NCAA to direct its funds towards research and collaborative opportunities with existing concussion research efforts. Ultimately, this Article concludes that the NCAA has failed to provide proper regulation in this area of collegiate athletics, and urges the federal courts to mandate change.

Keywords: Concussion, traumatic brain injury, CTE, athletics, athlete, NCAA, NFL

Suggested Citation

Reilly, Cailyn M., The NCAA Needs Smelling Salts When It Comes to Concussion Regulation in Major College Athletics (2012). UCLA Entertainment Law Review, Vol. 19, No. 2, 2012. Available at SSRN:

Cailyn Reilly (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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