With the fall sport season quickly approaching, institutions are in the process of reviewing previous seasons of competition for fall participants. A medical hardship request may be one aspect of the seasons of competition discussion for those students who previously suffered a season-ending injury. A request for a medical hardship, if granted, allows for an exception to the seasons of competition regulation for the injured athlete.
Q: What if the student-athlete was injured while in competition for a non-NAIA school?
A: The student-athlete has the choice to request the hardship from the NAIA or from the student's previous association. Any hardship requests submitted to the NAIA National office are analyzed under NAIA rules, so it may be advantageous in some situations to request the hardship from the student’s previous athletics association. NAIA rules honor and accept at face value medical hardships granted by another athletics association.
Q: What is the time limit for requesting a medical hardship?
A: There is no time limit by which a request must be submitted. Keep in mind, however, that information pertinent to the hardship (e.g. participation statistics, medical information, doctor’s signature, etc.) may be easier to obtain at the time of the injury. Also remember hardships deal with seasons of competition only. Hardships do not return terms of attendance.
Q: Why does the National Office request statistics regarding the student-athlete?
A: The NAIA must verify certain dates when analyzing the hardship, such as dates the athlete competed and date of the final regular season competition. This is because a student is limited to competing in a given number of contests per sport, and the student may not request a hardship if he or she is permitted to return to competition prior to the end of the regular season. If such statistics are not easily verifiable online, the National Office may reach out to you to help obtain the needed information.
Q: What if the student-athlete only receives a medical evaluation from a team trainer and not a doctor?
A: A trainer can certainly be involved in the treatment process, but a doctor must evaluate the student-athlete and determine that the injury is season-ending, and determine when the athlete may return to competition. Only Doctors of Medicine (M.D.) and Doctors of Osteopathy (D.O.) are permitted to make such determinations. Evaluations by other types of doctors (e.g. Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M) or Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.), etc.) are not satisfactory.
Q: What if a doctor cannot determine the exact date the athlete is fit to return to competition?
A: The request cannot be evaluated without knowing this date. You can choose to wait to submit the hardship request until the doctor does know the date that the athlete can return to competition, or the doctor can provide an estimated date of return (must be specific to the month and year of return).
Q: In how many games can an athlete participate and still be eligible for a medical hardship?
A: Each sport has different limits on how many competitions a student-athlete may participate in and still be eligible for a medical hardship. The limits can be found in the NAIA handbook in Bylaws Article V, Section M. Note that scrimmages do not count toward the participation limit, but exhibitions do count. There is no differentiation between varsity and junior varsity competition.
Q: What if a student-athlete is incorrectly noted as participating in a contest?
A: The accuracy of statistics is important for many purposes, including medical hardships. Once the mistake is discovered, an institution's SID should work through the proper procedure for the sport in question to have the statistics adjusted. A medical hardship request will not be completed if an institution's athletics webpage or one of the NAIA statistical reporting sites incorrectly shows statistics for a student for whom a medical hardship has been requested. Such a request will remain pending until the statistics are appropriately adjusted.