The National College Athletic Association (NCAA) needs a more heads-up approach to concussions, wrote NYIT Center for Sports Medicine Director Hallie Zwibel (D.O. '11) and Senior Director of Counseling Alice Heron-Burke in a Newsweek op-ed published on Jan. 5.
In "Beware the Classroom Costs of Sports Head Injuries," Zwibel and Burke urge the NCAA to adopt a strong "return to learn" protocol for student-athletes to ensure that those who suffer from concussions are ready to get back to their classrooms and academics as well as the playing fields or courts.
"A student unable to fruitfully engage in academics isn't ready for competitive athletics," they write. "Without a strong 'return-to-learn' protocol alongside a 'return-to-play' guideline, decision-making responsibility falls to those most reluctant to keep star athletes sidelined-- the students themselves, their coaches, and colleges where athletics is big business."
Zwibel and Heron-Burke call for the NCAA to implement an evidence-based strategy ensuring students who have suffered a concussion can return to learn. The protocol should include medical assessments, including neurologic exams, vision tests, and memory tests, as well as counseling and wellness services that address the mental health issues that often accompany concussions. NYIT's return-to-learn approach works well, they authors note, because of its holistic approach that focuses on students' well-being.
NYIT Center for Sports Medicine offers many services related to concussion awareness and management, and will sponsor a conference on concussions in the spring.