Ivy League Aims to Abate Concussions

After instituting a set of rule changes to limit concussions in football, the Ivy League’s Concussion Committee will recommend a number of policy changes to the league presidents to protect student-athletes playing men’s and women’s hockey, lacrosse, and soccer.

Student-athletes should expect to see several of the same changes made for football put in place for their sports, according to Ivy League Deputy Executive Director Carolyn Campbell-McGovern.

“A lot of the recommendations from the football report were naturally going to be applied to other sports as well, particularly the education components, sideline testing components, and any other of those types of enhancement,” Campbell-McGovern said.

After becoming the first conference to implement concussion-prevention measures for football, the Ivy League is furthering its pioneering role in concussion safety with these recommendations.

“We are leading other conferences,” said Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris. “I don’t know of any conference looking at this in the same manner that we are. We really see this as an area that we can be a leader in terms of the medical care safety of our athletes as well as in terms of the research we contribute to our collective understanding of concussions and athletics.”

Harris said it would be too early in the process to speak about what may be recommended, but did confirm that reports have now been written by the sport-specific subcommittees. On Wednesday, Harris and the rest of the multi-sport core committee convened in New York to discuss the recommendations made by the lacrosse and soccer subcommittees. The core group, which includes Harvard Head Athletic Trainer Brant Berkstresser, as well as other trainers, physicians, and administrators, will review recommendations made by the hockey subcommittees in April.

The committee is co-chaired by two presidents—David Skorton of Cornell and Jim Kim of Dartmouth.

Michael J. O’Brien, a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School as well as a practicing doctor in the Children’s Hospital Boston’s Division of Sports Medicine, mentioned a number of specific changes he’d like to see enacted.

O’Brien, who works in CHB’s concussion clinic, said that he sees 300-400 concussions each month, 98 percent of which come from sports-related injuries. O’Brien said that rapid, on-the-field diagnosis of head injuries could be helpful.

“The biggest risk is not the athlete who gets hit across the middle and is out cold,” O’Brien said. “The bigger risk is the athlete who gets injured, flies under the radar a little bit and gets a hit a few more times in that game or in the next two or three games. The injuries to that athlete tend to be exponential, their threshold to injury is much worse, and the damage is exponential. Using computer based testing to get objective information rather than just reporting symptoms would help.”

­—Staff writer Jacob D. H. Feldman can be reached at