The Associated Press contributed to this report
As the University of Georgia and other colleges get ready for football season, there is under development a new approach to treating players with concussions - one that will, for the first time be applied to players nationwide. But that may mean few changes at the University of Georgia.
Dr. Ron Courson, head of sports medicine at the University of Georgia, told WSB’s Pete Combs that the court settlement between the NCAA and its players actually puts UGA at the forefront, leading the way in coming up with procedures that are used to treat concussion victims.
“Most of the things they’re taking about, we’ve been doing for a number of years,” Dr. Courson said. “It’s not really going to change the protocol that we currently have.”
UGA’s concussion lab is a 16-year old effort to mitigate the effects of head injuries on players in all sports. Courson said it will be a major player in the effort to both treat players with concussions and prevent them from happening in the future.
Last month, the NCAA proposed a settlement to a lawsuit filed by several current and former college athletes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association will create 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.
College sports' governing body also 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.
Courson said current UGA policy prevents players who are injured from returning to the same game where the injury occurred. In fact, he said, there is in place now a three-step protocol for returning players with suspected concussions to active duty.
“One is looking at balance on a computer system. Another is looking at cognitive or mental function. And the third is a vision battery using some visual training equipment,” Dr. Courson told Combs.
Joseph Siprut, the lead plaintiffs' attorney who spearheaded talks with the NCAA, said the sometimes-tough negotiations ended with a deal that will make college athletics safer.
"I wouldn't say these changes solve the safety problems, but they do reduce the risks," the Chicago attorney said last month. "It's changed college sports forever."
He also said that stricter oversight and return-to-play rules should help ensure the viability of football by allaying the fears of parents who are currently inclined to not let their kids play.
"Changes were necessary to preserve the talent well of kids that feeds the game of football," he said. "Absent these kinds of changes, the sport will die."