Concussion-Related Protocols and Preparticipation Assessments Used for Incoming Student-Athletes in National Collegiate Athletic Association Member Institutions

Zachary Y Kerr, Erin M Snook, Robert C Lynall, Thomas P Dompier, Latrice Sales, John T Parsons, Brian Hainline
Journal of Athletic Training 2015, 50 (11): 1174-81

CONTEXT: National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) legislation requires that member institutions have policies to guide the recognition and management of sport-related concussions. Identifying the nature of these policies and the mechanisms of their implementation can help identify areas of needed improvement.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the characteristics and prevalence of concussion-related protocols and preparticipation assessments used for incoming NCAA student-athletes.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: Web-based survey.

PATIENTS OR OTHER PARTICIPANTS: Head athletic trainers from all 1113 NCAA member institutions were contacted; 327 (29.4%) completed the survey.

INTERVENTION(S): Participants received an e-mail link to the Web-based survey. Weekly reminders were sent during the 4-week window.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): Respondents described concussion-related protocols and preparticipation assessments (eg, concussion history, neurocognitive testing, balance testing, symptom checklists). Descriptive statistics were compared by division and football program status.

RESULTS: Most universities provided concussion education to student-athletes (95.4%), had return-to-play policies (96.6%), and obtained the number of previous concussions sustained by incoming student-athletes (97.9%). Fewer had return-to-learn policies (63.3%). Other concussion-history-related information (e.g., symptoms, hospitalization) was more often collected by Division I universities. Common preparticipation neurocognitive and balance tests were the Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing (ImPACT; 77.1%) and Balance Error Scoring System (46.5%). In total, 43.7% complied with recommendations for preparticipation assessments that included concussion history, neurocognitive testing, balance testing, and symptom checklists. This was due to moderate use of balance testing (56.6%); larger proportions used concussion history (99.7%), neurocognitive testing (83.2%), and symptom checklists (91.7%). More Division I universities (55.2%) complied with baseline assessment recommendations than Division II (38.2%, χ2 = 5.49, P = .02) and Division III (36.1%, χ2 = 9.11, P = .002) universities.

CONCLUSIONS: National Collegiate Athletic Association member institutions implement numerous strategies to monitor student-athletes. Division II and III universities may need additional assistance to collect in-depth concussion histories and conduct balance testing. Universities should continue developing or adapting (or both) return-to-learn policies.

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