"Intercollegiate athletics programs shall be conducted in a manner designed to protect and enhance the physical and educational well-being of student-athletes." - 2012-13 NCAA Division I Manual
The National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I manual includes more than 400 pages of mandates for its member schools.
But there is less than a page regarding healthcare for athletes.
Instead, there's a half-page list of healthcare services that institutions may finance should they choose. Athletic departments (with the exception of those in California, where specific legislation has been passed) don't have to publish their healthcare policies in writing, leaving players to rely solely on the promises of recruiters.
In other words, after an incoming student signs a letter of intent binding him or her to a university, many schools have no contractual obligation to treat injuries or strains that result from playing for that college.
Some schools, maybe even most, provide exceptional care for their athletes. But there's little way to know who does and who doesn't—and these sparse guidelines can leave some student-athletes dangerously exposed.
Off Louisiana Highway 16, down a dirt road, and another dirt road, to where the road ends, Stanley Doughty sat with his family inside the doublewide mobile home he grew up in. It was April 28, 2007, and the bayou weather had already grown hot and humid. Doughty—all 325 pounds of him—lounged on the left side of the couch with his father, Hollis, on the right, and his mother, Sandra, in the recliner: their usual arrangement. The silver Sanyo television was set to ESPN, where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was calling the names of the 255 players picked in that year's draft.
For Doughty, a promising defensive tackle who had just finished his junior year at the University of South Carolina, it was a tense moment. He had forfeited his final year of college in hopes of going pro, and now he was waiting to hear his fate.