Syracuse (WSYR-TV) – The Syracuse University football team earned a much-needed win over the weekend, dominating Wagner and emerging from the game virtually injury free.
But the medical staff at SU is as aware as ever of possible concussions – an issue they are well equipped to deal with.
And SU’s approach may become a model for other programs.
Concussions are one of the biggest issues facing the sport of football today. The NCAA convened a panel in 2010 to address the topic, but came away with only recommendations. They did not implement any new rules regarding concussions.
"In the NFL you only have a short, small group, it's easier to regulate. Whereas in college football not everybody has the same resources in terms of staffing for athletic trainers or physicians or equipment or whatever,” said SU Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine Tim Neal.
Neal was on the NCAA panel that addressed concussions. He left knowing that SU was on the leading edge, with a very strict protocol for dealing with head injuries that starts before an athlete even suffers one.
"We at Syracuse University take that very strongly when we speak to the student athlete during their first exam, have you had a concussion history,” said SU Head Athletic Football Trainer Denny Kellington.
Kellington and Neal say that, from a medical standpoint, what they say, goes – which is not the case at many other football programs.
Any SU player who has suffered a concussion is removed from activity, kept from competing and evaluated.
Then the protocol period begins, which involves mandatory rest. Slowly they work their way back onto the field. When someone exhibits a symptom, they begin the process again.
“If a football player gets hurt today Denny Kellington is not going to be able to tell Coach Shafer the guys going to be out two days or a week because he has to look for signs and symptoms,” Neal said.
It's true there is no concussion proof helmet, but the equipment staff at SU makes sure they have proper air in the headgear and every point on the four point chin strap is buckled so it’s functioning properly everyday.
“It’s about doing appropriate care, appropriate evaluation regardless of the score, regardless of the game,” Kellington said.
The care goes beyond the field. Academic support staff and professors are made aware of a player’s concussion.
Neal also devised a protocol coaches must sign. If they suspect a concussion, they’re obligated to report it.