Students at the University of Michigan have rallied this past week to collectively express their concerns over the Athletic Department’s treatment of quarterback Shane Morris’ concussion. My expectation is that Michigan, and particularly the NCAA, will understand the significance of those rallies and finally adopt standardized concussion management procedures, including a return-to-play protocol like the one fought for by players in the NFL.

It was the players, through their union, that stood up and demanded changes to the way head injuries are treated in the NFL. Armed with emerging scientific research linking concussions to long-term brain damage, the players insisted that the NFL improve its policies and practices governing this serious medical issue. The NFL acted but only as a result of athletes taking a stand for their own health and safety.

Independent doctors were finally allowed on the sidelines to spot, test and treat head injuries for the first time only two seasons ago. The fact that neither the NCAA nor the College Football Conferences have adopted this standard and other best practices is unacceptable. NFL players are part of and lead a union that can demand change, and we know college athletes do not yet have that luxury. The NFLPA can hold the clubs accountable for implementing and maintaining certain health and safety standards. No such thing exists in college football, and so far, those who run the sport have been unwilling to act. The NCAA has a duty to articulate, not just for the players and their families, but for the broader community, the standards the NCAA and the College Football Conferences are applying to protect student-athletes.

Our union stands with Ramogi Huma and the College Athletes Players Association to once again call for improved health and safety standards and return-to-play concussion protocols across all NCAA sports. It is the least that “student-athletes” deserve, and no health and safety standard in sport should fall below that of the professional level.

DeMaurice Smith is the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association.

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