Is anyone trying to protect student athletes?

Louisville isn't the only school suffering injuries to its athletes, but clearly it is a program having the least amount of injury luck in recent years. This Cardinal fan wanted to know a little more about what (if anything) is being done on a systemic level to take care of our kids.

30 years ago (1982) the NCAA launched ISS - Injury Surveillance System- a program to help collect and report injury data for NCAA member programs to better understand sports injuries. By 1988 they finally began collecting data from a 10% sampling of programs who volunteered to participate.

Also in 1988, NCAA began morphing ISS into a national level 'non profit' group called Datalys Center. The other two principals forming this non profit group? American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and BioCrossroads. ACSM is "a worldwide membership organization (like the college of surgeons) for more than 20,000 professionals in the sports medicine and exercise science fields. ...our members and certified professionals are a group of professionals who share a common purpose – the purpose of advancing health through science, education and medicine." BioCrossroads is a company which is directed by a mix of educational institutions and pharmaceutical companies.

It's important to note that the purpose of these organizations was to collect and make data available. Meaning, any effective use of the data for a positive outcome on the students' behalf was still at least another step or two away. Searching PubMed (one of the more prominant online medical research tools used by doctors and medical academicians ) for use of NCAA ISS data yields mostly postings of the old 2004 data by the original NCAA ISS staff. There are a few recent articles indicating that some collection, reporting and use of data still occurs, for example this hockey injury study.

The data are available to anyone doing research who submit an extremely intensive application form in which your research (and its purpose) must be explained in every detail. In the event your application is approved by Datalys Center, it must then also be approved by NCAA. I can't help but wonder, since they specify in the application that all data is deidentified, why all the security on this data, especially given that it is a nonprofit group supposedly formed to help us protect our kids?

But, is any of this really helping our kids? It sure sounds like a beauracratic nightmare, doesn't it? Datalys Center touts some outcomes as recently (!?) as 2003. Hopefully this only indicates an 8 year lack of updating their webpage, rather than achievements:

The data collection effort, combined with a unique review mechanism through the NCAA sport and policy committees, has led to advances in health and safety policy within and beyond college athletics:

  • The analysis of concussion injuries in ice hockey, that led to rule changes and officiating emphasis on reducing hitting from behind—and contact to the head (1995)
  • Modifications of permissible equipment and contact in spring football practices to reduce concussion and overall risk (1997)
  • Modifications of permissible equipment and multiple practice day schedules in preseason fall football practices to reduce heat illness and general injury risk (2003)
  • The addition of required eye protection in women’s lacrosse to reduce the small, but real risk of significant eye injury (2003)
  • Thirteen-year analysis of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament injuries in basketball and soccer players, which led to a focus on prevention efforts for female athletes—who have a higher risk for these types of injuries than their male counterparts.

After learning all the above, it seems obvious that any national level help for athletes has spiraled, as usual, out of control into a morass (more ass?) of bureaucracy and money-driven interests. So, a next installment on this topic would have to focus at local levels. Presumably there will be significant variance from one university to the next according to their financial wherewithal, their priorities and dedication and effort.

What exactly does UofL do to protect athletes? I'm hoping one of our resident writers will take this on -- in detail -- so that I don't have to. I have some paint I'd like to watch dry.

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