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Big Ten Conference Overhauls Concussion Policy for Student-Athletes

The Big Ten Conference announced a major overhaul to its concussion policy earlier this month, moving from "best practices and minimum requirements for schools to regulatory standards by the conference."

Under the new concussion standards, each school must have an independent, neutral athletic trainer on hand in the replay booth, who must have his/her own monitor and an ability to directly contact officials on the field.

"The enhanced concussion protocols will be incorporated by reference into the existing conferencewide concussion-management policy and will include reporting requirements, disciplinary action for noncompliance, and a higher level of accountability for conference-member institutions," the conference said in a news release.

According to Bloomberg's Kavitha A. Davidson, the Big Ten is the first "Power Five" conference to "standardize its treatment of head injuries."

As CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon notes, the Big Ten was at the center of two major concussion-related situations in college football this year. A few weeks ago, Ohio State football player Kosta Karageorge was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, just days after he went missing. Karageorge reportedly sent a text message to his mother saying "these concussions have my head all f---ed up," per Laura Arenschield and Bill Rabinowitz of The Columbus Dispatch.

In September, University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke came under fire for his handling of concussed sophomore quarterback Shane Morris. After sustaining a helmet-to-helmet hit that left him wobbly on the field, Morris remained in the game for one more play, and later came back into the game for another play before leaving for good.

Michigan's athletic director, Dave Brandon, resigned a month later, and Hoke was fired earlier this month.

This isn't the Big Ten's first foray into player safety. Back in June 2012, the conference announced a joint partnership with the Ivy League around sports-related concussion research, aiming to answer long-term questions about athletic head injuries. In the summer of 2013, the Big Ten commenced a partnership with USA Football to promote player safety among young student-athletes via public service announcements.

It bears watching whether the other Power Five conferences—or the rest of the NCAA at large—follow the Big Ten's lead on concussion protocol.  

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