Hainline and Division III Presidents Council discuss array of health and safety issues
NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline joined the Division III Presidents Council during its fall meeting to discuss team physicians and football helmet use, among other topics
By Brian Burnsed
The Division III Presidents Council and NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline engaged in a spirited discussion of the proposed association-wide sport safety package legislation at the council’s Oct. 30 meeting in Indianapolis.
At the heart of the dialogue was the designated team physician, one of the package’s four distinct elements. (DIII previously approved one of the four safety elements: requiring national certification for strength and conditioning coaches.) Several members of the council stressed that it would be important for convention voters to understand that there’s a clear line of demarcation between the legislation’s foundational requirements and the recommended best practices.
The proposed rule requires that schools designate a licensed physician to oversee the medical services for injuries and illnesses related to a student-athlete's participation in college sports. While schools will have discretion in determining the specific duties of the team physician, the Sport Science Institute will provide best practices that offer more detail and guidance. This will allow member institutions to utilize their team physicians in a manner that is most appropriate to their circumstances, which includes adhering to state laws.
Hainline assured the council that the NCAA will not prescribe a blanket system for practicing sports medicine. Instead, it would encourage institutions to adopt a designated team physician and be mindful of the best practices for the sake of the health and safety of student-athletes.
“I think Dr. Hainline said it very well,” said Jack Ohle, president of Gustavus Adolphus College and chair of the Division III Presidents Council. “The package really tries to look at the well-being of our student-athletes and to make sure that they’re being covered by people who have best practices in mind. It’s about each institution understanding that a physician, a person who is trained, needs to be overseeing medical services provided to student-athletes in the context of intercollegiate sports.”
Last week, the Division III Management Council voted to oppose legislation that would permit the use of football helmets in out-of-season athletics activities. The Presidents Council was not required to take any action on the Management Council’s decision, but felt compelled to do so after discussing the topic with Hainline.
While the legislation, which was proposed by the American Southwest Conference and the Southern Athletic Association, was put forward to protect student-athletes, Hainline suggested it could ultimately prove harmful. Helmets have two potential functions, he said: one is to prevent catastrophic brain injuries like skull fractures; the other is its use as a weapon to deliver impacts, occasionally with concussive force. He said data suggests that helmet usage in non-contact practices is more likely to increase the chance of injury rather than reduce it because players feel less vulnerable and instigate aggressive contact when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Officials from the two conferences that proposed the legislation maintain that helmets ultimately will protect student-athletes from head injuries during these non-contact practices. But a majority of Presidents Council members echoed both Hainline’s and the Management Council’s sentiments.
“It’s very important for us as the NCAA, as Division III particularly, to say football is important and the equipment is extremely important, but using helmets during the offseason is probably more than we want to do in Division III,” Ohle said. “We don’t want to give students a sense that they can use the helmet incorrectly.”
Recruiting working group
The NCAA research staff shared new data regarding the recruiting concepts survey that was recently sent to the Division III membership. While the window for submissions hadn’t yet closed – the final day to complete the survey is Friday, Nov. 1 – a vast majority of responses have already been submitted.
The survey addresses nine recruiting concepts formulated by the Division III Recruiting Working Group, which was formed in 2012 because survey data and anecdotal information indicated coaches were suffering from work-life imbalances, largely due to recruiting demands. Each of the nine topics garnered between 1,500 and 2,200 responses.
Thus far, enhancing education and promotional efforts for Division III, allowing for on-campus evaluations of prospective student-athletes and allowing contact on each day of competition at non-scholastic events are viewed favorably by the survey respondents – more than 70 percent of whom are coaches.
The finalized survey results will be discussed in greater detail at the 2014 Convention. Given that few coaches typically attend the convention, council members were pleased that coaches were well represented in the survey feedback. The survey data, some council members said, would give coaches a voice during discussions in January.
“We feel very good that the coaches have responded so positively to the survey,” Ohle said. “I think you’ll see some discussion by the presidents at convention about how we might best address these issues, whether on our own campuses or division-wide, through best practices or legislation. The coaches’ voice is very important.”
Confederate flag policy
The Presidents Council joined the Management Council in endorsing a recommendation by the Minority Interests and Opportunities Committee that the NCAA Executive Committee should review the NCAA’s Confederate flag policy.
The MOIC recommendation asks that no championship events be held in states where the Confederate flag is part of the state flag or is recognized in any official capacity. Currently, NCAA championship events at predetermined sites cannot be held in such states, but championships at non-predetermined sites in those states are allowed.
The committee’s proposed change would mirror a similar rule that bans all NCAA championship events from being held in states that allow sports wagering.
Lynn Pasquerella, president of Mount Holyoke College, was nominated to join the Presidents Council effective immediately. Council members voted unanimously to approve her appointment.