Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Nancy Mansberger

Second Advisor

Dr. James Lewis

Third Advisor

Dr. Ronald Kramer

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Dave Louis


concussion management, compliance, 2010 NCAA concussion policy, compliance officer, consequences, barriers to compliance


Concussions and concussion management in sport have become a polarizing public health issue. The best concussion assessment practices and “return-to-play” guidelines have been debated in both the scientific arena and in the media. At risk is the health of the athletes when proper diagnosis and treatment are not accurate for this potentially devastating injury.

Recent research estimates that approximately 1.6 – 3.8 million sport-related concussions occur each year in the United States (Brady, 2011), which can lead to chronic disease, swelling of the brain, cognitive impairment, chronic headaches, mood disorders, depression, blurred vision, double vision, cranial hemorrhaging and death if improperly diagnosed and/or treated. In 2010, the NCAA installed a policy on how concussions should be managed. This was the first time the concussion issue had been addressed by the governing body for collegiate athletics. Of the few studies that have been published that focus on compliance with the NCAA concussion management policy, significant variability has been shown to exist from one institution to another. Some institutions have been found to be in complete compliance, others are missing key components of the NCAA protocol, and surprisingly, some institutions lack a concussion management plan altogether (Baugh, 2016).

A general qualitative design is used to interview ten senior compliance officers and one compliance commissioner for institutions of higher education that are members of the NCAA to gain valuable insight to barriers that exist which prevent institutions from full compliance with the 2010 NCAA policy on concussion management. The inclusionary criteria for participation included only that the subject be a senior compliance officer employed by a division one institution, and that they be responsible for compliance with NCAA policies.

The thematic analysis reveals that compliance officers are most concerned with compliance in the areas of eligibility, financial aid, and recruiting. They use instruments to measure the degree to which their institutions are in compliance and are aware of specific consequences that can be imposed if their institutions are found to be in violation in those particular areas. Conversely, they do not measure the degree to which their institutions comply with the concussion policy, and are not aware of consequences that could be imposed if they are found to be in violation of the concussion policy, because there are not any consequences for non-compliance.

This study offers suggestive evidence that division 1 compliance officers, and subsequently the institutions that they represent, are consequence-driven in the context of compliance with NCAA policies. Additionally, this study supports the argument that a lack of specific consequences published by the NCAA for violation of the 2010 concussion policy is a major barrier to compliance with that particular policy. Finally, assignment of who, within an institution of higher education, should be blamed for violating the NCAA concussion policy is a barrier to consequences being established, and subsequently, to compliance with the policy. As of now, the 2010 NCAA policy on concussion management is merely a recommendation.


Research from this dissertation was published in the The Journal of NCAA Compliance.

Norman, Tyler, et al. "Administrative Barriers to Compliance With Policy on Concussion Management." The Journal of NCAA Compliance, January-February 2021, pp. 1, 11-21.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access