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Posted on Wed, Apr 28, 2010 : 6:10 p.m.

Big Ten medical staffs will examine concussion policies next week

By Michael Rothstein

A Big Ten medical professional says the classroom shouldn’t be ignored when NCAA athletes are diagnosed with a concussion.

Concussions are a hot topic in college sports. An NCAA safety panel recommended this week that schools create a detailed plan to handle concussions. In December, the same panel recommended a policy that athletes be sidelined until cleared by medical staff if they display concussion-related symptoms. Both the National Football League and NCAA also recommend that an athlete sit out the rest of the game or practice if diagnosed with a concussion.

Michigan State director of sports medicine Dr. Jeff Kovan said Thursday that representatives from each Big Ten university will discuss the potential for league-wide guidelines regarding concussions as part of its yearly meetings Tuesday and Wednesday in Park Ridge, Ill. The topic was added to the agenda last month after Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany asked about the league’s policy on head injuries, Kovan said.

“Nobody ever looked at academically or from the standpoint of when someone has a head injury, two things happen,” Kovan said. “One is the skull gets somewhat banged around but the brain gets injured and the brain has to heal, and the brain can get traumatized by playing sports. But it can also get irritated quite a bit by trying to study and read and text and work on the computer and go to class.

“So the mental energy of that concussion is we really have to try and protect that brain and let it really recover. So maybe it means for two, three, four days they don’t go to class, they don’t read. They just really recover the brain injury before we even start progressing that side.”

Kovan said it’s unlikely any Big Ten recommendations would go much further beyond what the NCAA or NFL recommend.

“We’re not going to in any way step over the lines of that,” he said. “But we’ll try to be supportive of that and at the same time make it even stronger. Really add that academic arm to it so we can protect these kids as students.”

The hope is after these meetings, the medical staffs will be able to work with the academic side of Big Ten universities to implement the potential new proposal.

“If we’re going to say that, we’re going to need to have the support from the academic staff at each of the universities so we can go to the professors and say, ‘Look, here is what we’re dealing with,'" Kovan said. "They may have to miss class for a couple of days and they may have to have some assistance with them, be it more time for studying, more time for test taking, whatever it takes until they are academically back to where they need to be.

“For some kids, it won’t matter at all. It’ll be easy. They’ll be right back. For some kids, they may miss a few days and that may have an impact on their academic standing and potentially getting through classes.”

Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for He can be reached at (734) 623-2558, by e-mail at or follow along on Twitter @mikerothstein.