Over the past few years and especially over the past several months, a significant amount of time and effort has been focused on the safety of student-athletes at the collegiate level. Specifically, how to further reduce the risk of Eric LeGrand-type injuries as well as head injuries at all levels of football.
Monday afternoon, one of the most powerful conferences in the country became the latest to take a significant step in the arena of player safety.
In a release, the Pac-12 announced that it has launched a comprehensive student-athlete health initiative that will be implemented in time for the 2013-14 academic year. The initiative, unanimously approved by the conference’s presidents and chancellors over the weekend, “will build upon current efforts to improve the health and safety of Pac-12 student-athletes while establishing new activities,” the release stated.
“The group acknowledges that it is impossible to eliminate all injuries, but has developed the initiative to find ways to reduce injuries today, share current best practices and latest studies, and conduct research to uncover new ways to keep student-athletes as safe as possible,” the conference added.
Two of the four prongs of the initiative are directly related to football.
The one that will likely garner the most attention is the creation of a formal policy limiting the amount of contact in practice. While a uniform policy has yet to be finalized — that’s expected to happen at the Pac-12 football media day July 26 — the conference stated that its group “will look at guidelines around contact in practice to ensure that student-athlete well-being is being closely monitored, both in the amount of contact and in providing our student-athletes and coaches with ample opportunity to teach and learn the correct tackling methods during the spring and preseason.”
Additionally as related to the sport this site covers, the conference will continue the push to reduce injuries from the neck up by creating a Head Trauma Task Force. That group, headed by the Pac-12’s General Counsel and Director of Football and will include coaches, administrators and doctors from Pac-12 institutions, will look to find ways to limit damage and exposure to student-athletes.
“Pac-12 institutions house the leading medical trainers, doctors, and scientists working to enhance student-athlete health and well being,” said Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “Our athletic departments and coaches have been very progressive in this area and are deeply committed to advancing these efforts,” he added. “This initiative seizes on our opportunity to embrace, support, and coordinate all these efforts and build a framework to advance them with new resources, expertise and funding.”
Other prongs of the initiative include the following:
- Student-Athlete Health & Well-Being Research Program: Under this new program, the Pac-12 will establish a steering committee of top doctors and researchers from Pac-12 institutions, convene a summit in early 2014 where doctors and researchers share research and joint initiatives, and commit $3.5M in research grants for projects at Pac-12 institutions aimed at improving student-athlete health and well being.
- Student-Athlete Health Conference: This Pac-12 will lead and enhance the annual Student-Athlete Health Conference. This meeting has been in existence for 10+ years as a forum for doctors and medical trainers from Pac-12 institutions to share best practices, review ongoing research studies and evaluate Pac-12 policies. In its first year as a Pac-12 event, the Pac-12 will introduce new speakers and programs to advance collaboration of all 12 universities, and establish an official process for implementing recommendations put forth by the conference.
“The health and well-being of our more than 7,000 student-athletes competing within the Pac-12 each year is of paramount importance,” said Pac-12 CEO Group chairperson Ed Ray. “This new initiative is a great step towards taking advantage of the full resources of our research institutions for the benefit of our student-athletes.”