Blind side to concussions: NFL’s latest legal blows give feeble push to NCAA

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Football is a violent game. Mr. Huma understands that. He sustained one diagnosed concussion at UCLA, but hits dizzied him plenty more times.

College athletes are going to try to play through concussions, he said: They’re not going to stop until their body — or a doctor — forbids it. They want to win. They want a shot at the NFL.

“We’re not asking for miracles,” Mr. Huma said. “Why not minimize those risks and put in a little something to support those players who take the risk and make a big sacrifice?

“They have uniform national laws over whether a player can sign an autograph or receive payment or get a free burger in the drive-thru at McDonald’s. But when it comes to something like brain trauma, they’re hands-off.”

Mr. Huma points to the Ivy League’s initiative — which cut full-contact football practices to two per week and limited spring practices starting in 2011 to reduce concussions and subconcussive blows — along with the relative dearth of studies examining the long-term impacts of head injuries on college athletes.

The NCAA is tracking the Ivy League’s plan, but it’s too early to draw conclusions, Mr. Klossner said.

In December, Mr. Huma’s proposal added a call to place independent concussion specialists on the sidelines to determine whether a player can return to a game and remove the decision from team doctors. There isn’t an NCAA-wide requirement for how to evaluate and diagnose concussions, other than mandating that such a process be in place. Next season, the NFL expects to have independent neurologists on the sidelines.

No one responded to the change.

Frustration lingers in Mr. Huma’s voice. Same with Mr. Nowinski.

The Woods pileup is a touchstone for an issue in which the core idea of amateurism and still-advancing science collide with aggressive litigation and reform agendas.

“Even an idiot could tell those players were concussed,” Mr. Nowinski said, referring to Woods and Arizona quarterback Matt Scott, who vomited on the sideline after he was kicked in the head during an October game.

“The fact there was no punishment for the program or even a statement alerting people that, ‘Hey, we should do better next time,’ is just incredibly disappointing.”

So, Woods answered the three questions correctly after barely being able to take a solid step and returned. The game, as always, went on.

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