The Southeastern Conference on Wednesday outlined the process by which it will implement its new Football Medical Observer program in compliance with an experimental rule implemented by the NCAA for the 2015 season.
The experimental NCAA rule was proposed by the SEC and the Big Ten Conference for the purpose of using the communication capability of the Instant Replay process to assist on-field medical staffs in identifying potential head/neck injuries during games.
Beginning with the season opening games on September 3, the SEC will provide a qualified medical professional to serve as an independent medical observer for all conference contests and all non-conference contests conducted at a home site (including neutral site facilities where the SEC institution plays an annual game). The medical observer will be positioned in the replay booth and will have access to video and communications equipment to perform his or her duties.
In the event the medical observer has clear visual evidence that a player displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable due to head or neck injury, and it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and not be attended to by the team's medical or athletic training staff, then the medical observer shall take the following steps: (1) If the player does not receive medical attention, alert the replay officials immediately and identify the player by his team and jersey number; (2) contact the medical staff of the player involved and advise that the player appears to be in need of medical attention and the basis for the stoppage.
Upon being notified by the medical observer, the replay official will immediately notify the referee over the wireless crew communication system. The Referee or any other official shall immediately stop the game while the ball is dead, go to the player in question, and follow all procedures as outlined in Rule 3 of the NCAA playing rules concerning players and injury timeouts. However, if play is stopped due to the medical observer process with less than one minute in the half, then Article 5.f of NCAA Rule 3-3 (10 second runoff provision) will not apply.
The head coach will be notified of the reason for the injury timeout, and the referee will make the following announcement: "Time Out … Medical Stop." The referee shall not announce or identify the player who is being removed from the game.
Once removed from the field, the team medical staff shall conduct an evaluation of the player. The return to play decision will be made by the institution's medical staff consistent with the institution's protocols and Rule 3-3-5 of the NCAA playing rules concerning injury timeouts.
A team may not deliberately initiate these procedures to stop play unnecessarily, to prolong or delay the medical stoppage, to improperly take advantage of a stoppage in play, or to influence the actions of the medical observer.
The SEC has contracted with Champion Sports Medicine, a Physiotherapy Associates Company, to administer the Football Medical Observer program and to coordinate the participation of medical professionals from across the Southeast to serve as medical observers.