The Ivy League announced new rules Monday designed to limit the amount of student-athlete concussions in both men's and women's soccer and men's and women's lacrosse, effective this coming school year.
Assuming the league gathers data in the coming seasons that prove the effectiveness of these new rules, similar changes could end up being adopted outside of the Ivy League.
This isn't the league's first go-around in terms of concussion prevention. Last summer, the league's ad hoc concussion committee proposed a series of changes that reduced the number of full-contact football practices allowed per week, which were later approved by the eight league presidents.
Now, with soccer and lacrosse, many of the same principles will apply.
For men's lacrosse, coaches must now designate 11 combined days in the fall and spring where student-athletes will not be allowed to body check in practice. Coaches will also be limited to only one full-contact practice per day. For women's lacrosse, coaches must exclude stick-checking in 10 spring practices.
Both men's and women's lacrosse coaches in the Ivy League will be required to "place a greater emphasis on teaching proper hitting techniques in practice," according to the new rules. Women's lacrosse players must attend at least one mandatory session before the start of fall practice to learn proper stick-checking technique, the new rules dictate.
In both men's and women's soccer, coaches must now spend three hours of preseason practice teaching student-athletes proper techniques for heading. All participants—student-athletes, coaches, and officials—will be reminded of NCAA rules allowing soccer players with concussion-like symptoms to be removed from the game without counting toward a team's substitution total, if cleared to return to play.
"These concussion reviews, particularly as they relate to the safety of our student-athletes, reflect the Ivy League's interest in taking a leadership role in appropriate aspects of athletics generally and regarding concussions specifically," said Robin Harris, Ivy League executive director, in a statement. "Expanding our review to include more sports is another way to drive the discussion and help student-athletes across our broad-based athletics programs."
The men's and women's soccer and lacrosse teams will also collect prospective student-athlete concussion data to be studied later.
"When looking at sports such as lacrosse and soccer it became obvious that the need for quality data had to be our focus for the future," said Cornell University President David. J Skorton in a statement. "We need to determine under exactly what circumstances these concussions are occurring on the field. In the interim, taking steps to minimize exposures while also increasing education became paramount."
Men's and women's ice hockey could be the next sport with major changes on the way. The Multi-Sport Concussion Committee will present recommendations to league presidents in December, after reviewing the work of ad hoc men's and women's ice hockey committees.
Last month, the Ivy League announced a joint partnership around sports-related concussion research with the Big Ten Conference.
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