Ashmead White Director of Athletics Tim Ryan and Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Scott Meiklejohn informed all former student-athletes via email last week that their name and current mailing address were given to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) as per its request in connection with a proposed class action settlement related to concussions. The College also shared the contact details of current student athletes, according to the email.

The NCAA Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation website, which Ryan and Meiklejohn linked to in their email, states that if the settlement is approved on May 5, it would entitle all current and former student-athletes—at Bowdoin and all other NCAA member institutions—to medical monitoring that would screen for concussions and “assess symptoms related to persistent post-concussion syndrome, as well as cognitive, mood, behavioral and motor problems that may be associated with mid-to late-life onset diseases resulting from concussions and/or subconcussive hits.”

The NCAA will allocate $70 million to this medical monitoring program if the settlement is approved. In addition, it will allocate $5 million to concussion research. Medical monitoring will extend fifty years after the date the settlement takes effect.

Although the hearing is not scheduled until May, the NCAA has requested all athlete contact information. Comments in support of the settlement or requests for exclusion must be filed by March 10, 2017.

Former NCAA football and soccer players were the ones to originally file the lawsuits against the NCAA.

The athletes claimed that the NCAA was “negligent and had breached its duty to protect all current and former student-athletes by failing to adopt appropriate rules regarding concussions and/or manage the risks from concussions,” according to the litigation website.

Although settlement talks were initiated over two years ago, Thursday’s email to alums marks the first time the College has reached out to the Polar Bear community regarding the settlement.

Before this notification, many current and former athletes may not have been aware of their inclusion or their eligibility for concussion-related medical expense reimbursement. However, Bowdoin’s insurance policies cover the costs of all injuries that occur while a student is a member of a varsity athletic team, according to Ryan.

Despite going forward with the settlement, the NCAA does not believe it acted inappropriately in dealing with the student-athlete cases that brought about the class-action suit.

“The NCAA denies all allegations of wrongdoing and liability and believes that its conduct was lawful. The NCAA, however, is settling to avoid the substantial cost, inconvenience and disruption of litigation,” according to the website.

As part of the settlement, NCAA also proposes to adopt five new concussion management policies for its member institutions: baseline testing, no same day return to play, medical personnel with training in the diagnosis to be present at games and available at practices, a reporting mechanism for diagnosed concussions and required NCAA-approved concussion training and education for athletes and athletic staff.

However, Bowdoin already has the proposed policies in place for its own athletic programs so, if approved, the settlement is not likely to make substantial changes to the College’s policies.

“We don’t have a policy change because we were already doing what they’re proposing,” said Director of Athletic Training Dan Davies. “So that’s the good news for us and the good news for our student-athletes, that we were taking the proactive route five, six seven years ago rather than what people are falling behind in trying to catch up with.”

For baseline testing, every varsity athlete at the College has to complete imPACT testing, the King-Devick Test, Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) test and, new as of this year, the Sway test.

Davies said that in the fourteen years he’s been at Bowdoin, Athletics has never allowed someone suspected to have a concussion back into play. This year, the Bowdoin Concussion Assessment, Management and Return to Play Guidelines were also updated to increase the time that a player is required to take off from a sport after sustaining a concussion.

Ryan said it is standard practice for medical personnel trained in recognizing and treating concussions to be on hand at games and practices for contact sports.

Regarding the College’s efforts to provide education on concussions, Ryan said the athletic department meets with the dean’s office and has spoken about concussions and academic accommodations for recovering students at faculty meetings and open lunches, most recently last spring.

Although the NCAA class action settlement proposes a new reporting mechanism, Bowdoin has already been tracking this data through a NESCAC initiative.

As the only conference in the nation to participate in conference-wide concussion monitoring, the NESCAC is ahead of the curve with concussion awareness. The system that collects this data, known as the Head Injury Tracking (HIT) Project, was made available to NESCAC schools two years ago and expanded to all Maine high schools in August 2015.

“[Bowdoin has] been doing it all so [the NCAA is] catching up to us rather than us catching up to them,” said Davies. “We’re fortunate in that we feel like we have great policies in place to help support our students and those are in line with the guidelines that the NCAA has put in place.”

“In college concussions, we’re looking for information about each student’s mechanism of concussion injury, pertinent medical history (date of last menstrual period and history of concussion, depression/anxiety, migraines, ADD/ADHD) and how severe symptoms are near the time of injury,” wrote HIT Project Administrator Hannah Willihan in an email to the Orient. “We then analyze how long it takes to return to full academics and athletics to look for correlations. The million dollar question becomes ‘are there circumstances that can predict shorter or longer recovery from concussion?’”

Despite being proactive with concussion management and reporting strategies, Bowdoin’s reported concussion numbers have remained fairly static over the past five years, never varying by more than five from year to year since 2011. Last year, there were 62 concussions for players on 14 athletic teams according to Ryan.