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Ivy League -- via group co-led by Skorton -- adopts rules to cut football concussions

The Ivy League presidents have accepted a series of recommendations made by a special ad hoc committee -- co-chaired by Cornell President David J. Skorton, a medical doctor -- with the goal of lowering the incidence of concussion and subconcussive hits in football.

Formed in December to determine how the Ivy League could take a leadership role in trying to limit concussive hits in football, the committee, co-chaired by Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim, also a medical doctor, included various Ivy League head football coaches, administrators, expert consultants, team physicians and athletic trainers.

The recommendations, to take effect this coming season, include limits to the number of full-pad/contact practices that can take place throughout the football year. Also, there will be further emphasis on educating student-athletes on proper tackling technique, the signs and symptoms of concussion and the potential short- and long-term ramifications of repetitive brain trauma. In addition, there will be a more stringent postgame league review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits.

The committee reviewed data and research regarding concussions and head hits in football and looked at current NCAA and Ivy League rules and practices.

Research suggests that concussions not only have acute consequences but also more long-term sequelae. The multiple hits sustained in football, as distinct from those causing concussion, may have a role in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in some individuals.

Based on its findings, the committee presented a series of recommendations to the Ivy League presidents that have been adopted and, where necessary, drafted into league legislation for the coming year.

The new in-season practice limitations permit no more than two full-contact days per week, a 60 percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. Full-contact spring practices will be cut by one, a 12 percent reduction from current Ivy League limits and a 42 percent reduction from the NCAA maximum. Additionally, the number of days that pads can be worn during both sessions of preseason two-a-days has been limited to one.

These new limitations will help minimize the likelihood and severity of hits to the head.

Among other measures, schools will continue to provide information to student-athletes on the signs and symptoms of concussion, emphasizing the potential long-term risks of repetitive brain trauma and stressing the need to report any symptoms of a concussion. A key component of this educational process will be changing the mentality of some student-athletes regarding the seriousness of concussive injuries.

"It is important for our student-athletes to not only recognize symptoms of concussion in themselves and their teammates but to also understand the severity of such injuries and the need to relay that information to medical personnel," said Skorton. "Our goal is to emphasize that a concussion is a serious injury that requires immediate and proper treatment, including physical and cognitive rest, to promote healing."

On the field, practices will continue to include the teaching of proper football fundamentals and technique to avoid leading with the head, as well as an emphasis on avoiding hits against defenseless players.

As directed by the presidents, beginning with the 2011 season, the Ivy League executive director will expand the video review of helmet-to-helmet and targeted hits that has been in effect for the last two seasons with the goal of taking appropriate but firm action in response to such hits, including suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits deemed intentional.

While the committee's recommendations focus solely on football, the Ivy League will next conduct similar reviews of men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, and men's and women's soccer.

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Simeon Moss