The NIRSA Concussion Advisory Council has been exciting opportunity for volunteer members of the Association to work on a topic that has the potential for wide-reaching impact in the field of campus recreation and wellbeing. The council—made up of professionals at different size campuses, across multiple regions, who have different models and resources available—was tasked with creating and evaluating resources that might assist campuses of all sizes and reporting structures with the creation of a concussion education and management system that fits their needs and limitations.

As the Chair of this volunteer group, I am excited to say that the first year has exceeded my expectations; I’ve been wowed by the commitment of the council members, and we hope in year two we will be able to do more to serve the Association and its members around this topic which continues to evolve in sports and recreation and specifically on college and university sports and recreation on campus.

Upcoming goals for the Concussion Advisory Council

As the Advisory Council enters its second year of work, we hope to enhance our engagement with NIRSA members and institutions to assist with the development and evaluation of concussion policies, procedures, and resources being offered to employees and participants in our respective programs.

The Advisory Council will begin year two by working on a recommended concussion policy for the NIRSA Championship Series. We see this as an opportunity to create a consistent experience and level of service for the students participating in Championship Series events, and something that could eventually be expanded into other local NIRSA events.

We are also excited to announce that between now and the 2019 Annual Conference, there will be a series of NIRSA news articles—which will also be featured in the NIRSA Know—to be authored by members of the Advisory Council focused on topics like building partnerships, the pros and cons of some of the tools advertised to assist with concussion management, and return to play and return to learn. These topics have been identified through feedback received from NIRSA members. Additionally, we hope to share case studies of different types of concussion protocol structures that exist in recreation programs at a handful of NIRSA member schools, an explanation of how those structures were established, and recommendations on how other institutions could re-create the similar structures in their own recreation programs.

Our first year

The NIRSA Concussion Advisory Council was constituted as news came from Canada that a large insurance company was considering dropping liability coverage for ‘head trauma’ at Canadian institutions.  Shortly after, NIRSA members learned that concussions would be the focus of a white paper presented at the University Risk Management and Insurance Association (URMIA) 2018 annual conference.  The growing potential impact on collegiate recreation, and specifically club and intramural sports prompted the NIRSA Board of Directors support for actively joining the conversation and advocating for NIRSA members.

The first actions taken by the newly constituted council included launching two surveys, one in Canada and a similar one in the US, intended to gauge the current state of concussion management in collegiate recreation. Those survey findings, along with a summarization of the URMIA white paper, were presented at the 2018 NIRSA Annual Conference, and feedback was solicited from attendees on what type of resources or work was desired from the Advisory Council.

Based on feedback from NIRSA members, longtime NIRSA Associate Member SportRisk Inc. has created a new concussion training package.

While most concussion training is geared toward parents and coaches of youth athletes or NCAA programs where athletic training coverage is standard among operating protocols, this training is the first of its kind to focus on participants in collegiate recreation programs.

What resources do you need?

In addition to completed and upcoming work from the council, we hope to provide more resources that reflect the feedback we receive from NIRSA members.  Email your feedback to NIRSA Headquarters about what resources would be most valuable to your work on this important topic.

Lexi Chaput currently is Senior Assistant Director of Sport Programs and Development at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor; she serves as a member of the NIRSA Foundation Board of Directors and is the Chair of NIRSA's Concussion Advisory Council. She can be reached at lexic@umich.edu.