Ivy League Expands Concussion-Preventative Measures to Soccer, Lacrosse

One year after implementing restrictions designed to reduce concussions in Ancient Eight football, the Ivy League expanded practice limitations at the recommendation of the Concussion Committee to protect men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse players Monday. The four teams will have fewer practices in the upcoming year to limit exposure to head injury, and players will be penalized more stiffly for going after an opponent’s head.

In December of 2010, in response to growing concern around concussion-related health issues, Ivy League officials convened a panel to draw up preventative suggestions to protect athletes. Six months later, a plan was put in place for football.

Having looked at some of the league’s higher-risk sports, the Concussions Committee will now switch its focus to men’s and women’s hockey in the coming months to prepare for the 2012-2013 season.

In implementing practice reform, the Ivy League has further cemented itself as a pioneer in concussion safety throughout the NCAA.

“This is an issue that is impacting college athletics across many sports and across all levels,” Ivy League Associate Executive Director Scottie Rodgers said. “It’s important for us and for our presidents to earmark this as an initiative that we should spend time on and we should invest resources in because the impact is critical to the future success of our student athletes on the field and beyond.”

A recent Ivy League report included new data that pointed to significant potential risk in both soccer and lacrosse. Per 1,000 exposures, according to information gathered between 1988 and 2003, women’s soccer players get .41 concussions, higher than the .37 figure in NCAA football.

Men’s hockey presents the same risk of concussions as does women's soccer—.41 concussions per 1,000 exposures—but suggestions for the sport were not released because the sport-specific committee was forced to start later due to the length of the hockey season. Robin Harris, executive director of the Ivy League, said that hockey suggestions will still be implemented for the 2012-2013 season if they approved by the league presidents.

Harris also explained that heightened awareness to concussions will impact how the league and its athletes understand and confront head injuries.

“We expect there could be an increase in concussions reported because athletes know more about symptoms,” Harris said. “In the long term, we hope to see a decrease, but in the short term, we would not be surprised by an increase because of the heightened awareness of symptoms due to better education.”

Harris added that there are no current plans for the committee to investigate changes in other sports. Instead, the group will continue to look at the increasing amount of available data and collaborate with the Big 10 in researching concussions to try to better protect its student-athletes.

“Right now, I can’t tell you we are going to have a review of other sports,” Harris said, “but concussions will remain an issue for us.”

—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at jacobfeldman@college.harvard.edu.

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