Risk Management and Concussions

By Ben DeCelle

            Perhaps the most difficult challenge, legal or otherwise, faced by the NCAA and its member institutions today is how to manage the risks associated with concussions in sports. Particularly within the last decade, these organizations have focused on risk management—“the process of evaluating the chance of loss or harm and then taking steps to combat the potential risk”1—as a way to minimize harm to individual athletes and decrease the likelihood that they will be subject to massive lawsuits. However, as the NCAA and member institutions have now discovered, risk management as a strategy is much more effective in other aspects of their business than with the risks associated with concussions. For example, many universities have begun to hire outside law firms or other specialists to conduct internal investigations and risk assessments in an effort to minimize the chance that they would bring in a coach or player with a risky past (and perhaps to minimize liability if a situation were to occur in the future).2 Risks associated with concussions, on the other hand, are much more difficult to manage because their occurrence is inherent in almost every existing sport. In other words, how can schools and the NCAA effectively manage a risk that is absolutely certain to occur no matter how much money or effort is diverted to it?

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