NCAA Rules Interpretations

Similiar to the United States Constitution, the rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are a living document and must be interpretated based on the outcome of situations that arise during the course of a season.

To aid in this interpretation, the NCAA Water Polo Rules Subcommittee, Coordinator of Officials and Secretary-Rules Editor periodically release updates on how the rules should be applied during a game.


March 10, 2013 - 2012/2014 NCAA Casebook

Rule 5-4: Is the use of soft headgear permitted for concussion prevention if the appropriate release form (Appendix F) is completed? (1/22/13)

The statement below is from the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports on the subject of helmets/soft headgear. Soft headgear includes concussion headbands/devices. Based on this statement from the NCAA, the use of helmets/soft headgear for concussion prevention is not permissible, and waivers may not be granted for this purpose.

All equipment worn by an athlete must comply with the applicable rule. This includes Rule 4 (Caps) and Rule 5-4 (Apparel--items likely to cause injury). Any item worn underneath the water polo cap must be in compliance with Rule 4 and as such would not be considered an item likely to cause injury. Exceptions to Rule 5-4 may be granted but a completed release form (Appendix F) must be available for presentation to the referees prior to any game in which the athlete wishes to participate. As stated above, the use of helmets/soft headgear (worn outside the hat) for concussion prevention is not permissible, and waivers may not be granted for this purpose. The NCAA will continue to monitor developments in this area and will consider adjustments to its position should valid scientific evidence arise.

Soft Headgear in Non-Helmeted Sports.

The NCAA does not view the use of soft headgear products as equipment for the prevention of concussion in non-helmeted sports. As explained below, soft headgear products may be worn in non-helmeted sports whose rules allow for such optional equipment, but the purpose of that equipment should be for reasons other than concussion prevention. In non-helmeted sports requiring a medical waiver for the use of such optional equipment, use of soft headgear as a condition to be medically cleared to play sports is ineffective. Therefore, the NCAA will not provide medical waivers for the use of soft headgear for the prevention of concussion in order to be medically cleared to play sports. It should be noted that there is no helmet which can prevent a concussion. There continues to be a need for valid scientific evidence that the use of such products decreases the incidence of concussion.

Concussion is a brain injury. It is important to note that there is a lack of clinical evidence supporting the value of the soft or padded headgear in the prevention of sports-related concussions. The NCAA recommends caution in utilizing these devices to permit medical clearance of a student-athlete if they would otherwise not be medically cleared to participate in their sport. Currently, wearing such headgear is not medically necessary to prevent concussions in order to play; however, this equipment may be used to cover lacerations and sutures as they are deemed appropriate within the sport’s playing rules.

Current design and recommended use of these devices fail to address the proposed mechanism of concussive injury, that being rotational acceleration and deceleration forces acting on the brain. Institutions should refer to equipment standards from NOCSAE, ASTM, HECC, and CPSC when considering protective equipment for student-athletes and ensure the equipment is used for mitigating the risk of injuries for which they are designed.

When considering the use of this optional equipment during practice or permitted competition, athletes and coaches should take the time to read the qualifying statements provided with such a product addressing its limitations, particularly to prevent serious head injuries. Wearing such a device may provide a false sense of security in the area of concussion protection by the player, their coaches and their parents. In addition, placing headgear on a student-athlete may indirectly justify striking them in the head by opponents, especially in sports where this has never been the intent (e.g., soccer, basketball, women’s lacrosse, etc).

Moreover, a false sense of security in the area of concussion protection increases the likelihood that players, coaches, and parents will consider the medical condition to be adequately addressed and may place less importance upon avoiding head impact, reporting concussion symptoms, and returning to play prior to full recovery following a concussion.

The NCAA will continue to monitor developments in this area and will consider adjustments to its position should valid scientific evidence arise.

David Klossner
NCAA Director of Health & Safety

dklossner@ncaa.org

*Rule 7-9 (Note 1): If the buzzer sounds after the referee blows his whistle should this be considered a correctable error that must be addressed by the referee? (9/15/12)
The whistle stops play. If the buzzer signifying the end of the 30/35 second possession clock or the end of a period sounds immediately after the referee whistles a foul, the referee administering the free throw must determine whether there was a clock operator error (failure to stop the clock in a timely manner) or if the clock was operated correctly and the buzzer sounded after the whistle due to normal human reaction time. The former is a correctable error, the latter is not.

*Rules 7-10 Protests and 7-9 Correctable Errors: What guidelines should referees and/or tournament committees use in ruling on a protest lodged either during or at the conclusion of a game? (9/15/12)
These two rules go hand-in-hand, and provide the framework for handling all protests. Rule 7-10 states that a coach may protest a misapplication of the rules or other correctable error, but not judgment calls by the referee. Whenever possible, coaches are encouraged to file their protest at the time of the alleged misapplication of the rules or other correctable error, but they have until five minutes after the conclusion of the game to file the protest. In tournament play the tournament committee shall adjudicate any protests that occur. In the absence of a tournament committee the referees in charge of the game must adjudicate the protest at the time it occurs.

Rule 7-9 provides some direction as to how correctable errors should be handled by the referees and/or the tournament committee when a protest is filed for a misapplication of the rules or other correctable error. Included are the following statements, "No team shall gain an advantage over an opponent because of this type of error." and “... the referees must determine to the best of their ability which error(s) shall be corrected in interest of fairness."

In creating an opportunity for coaches to protest misapplications of the rules and other correctable errors, it was the intent of the rules subcommittee that there is a mechanism by which these types of mistakes could be corrected when they created an unearned advantage for either team. In any valid protest situation (i.e., misapplication of the rules or other correctable error), the first question that should be asked is, was an unearned advantage gained by either team? If the answer to that question is no, then the protest should be denied immediately. If the answer to the first question is yes, then the next question would be, is the team that was put at a disadvantage by the mistake seeking a remedy? Again, if the answer to this question is no, then the protest should be denied immediately. The only time that a protest should be upheld, and any portion of a game replayed, would be when the team that was disadvantaged by the mistake is seeking a remedy for the error. At no time should the offended team be disadvantaged by correction of an error or the upholding of a protest.

The takeaway message here is twofold: (1) Not every correctable error needs to be corrected in order to obtain a fair result in a particular game. (2) When a protest is upheld, the referees and/or the tournament committee must decide how best to neutralize the unearned advantage of one team caused by the correctable error, without creating a disadvantage to the offended team, in order to bring the game to a proper conclusion.

Rule 14-3-d (Note 2): What is the correct signal of the referee to indicate that the player with a free throw was fouled outside the 5m line and is therefore eligible to shoot a direct shot on goal? (9/15/12)

The referee administering the free throw should point to the 5m marker on the deck, arm diagonal to the body.

Rule 14-3-d (Note 3): If an offensive foul is called on a player outside 5m but the ball is inside 5m, may the team with the free throw move the ball back to or behind the line of the foul in order to be eligible to take a direct shot on goal? (9/15/12)

This note does not apply to a free throw awarded for an offensive foul; the free throw for an offensive foul shall be taken from the spot (location) of the ball when the foul is called (see Rule 19-1-c)

Rule 16-1-b (Goal Throws) Improperly taken shots on goal should be treated like any other contra foul (free throw at spot of ball) instead of goal throw as currently stated. (1/22/13)

This rule describes four situations where a goal throw shall be awarded to the defensive team after the team on offense takes a shot on goal when not permitted. Although not described as an offensive foul, the Rules Sub-Committee has clarified that the four situations described in this rule should be treated in the same manner as any other offensive foul; that is, the resultant free throw should be taken at the spot of ball when the defending team takes possession of the ball (as opposed to going back to the goalkeeper for a goal throw).

As with any other offensive foul, if the foul is awarded outside 5m and the free throw is taken outside 5m, the player taking the free throw is eligible to shoot a direct free shot.

One exception to this interpretation is when a shot on goal is taken improperly and goes out of the field of play. In this situation the ball will normally be thrown by someone on the bench to the goalkeeper or another field player at the 2M line who will then take the goal throw. If the ball leaves the field of play and then rebounds back into the field of play, the ball must still go back to the 2m area where the free throw is taken. Consistent with Rule 14-3-h (2nd Note), free throws taken in this situation may be shot at the opposing goal except if the ball leaves the field of play over the sideline.

Rule 19-1-c: Where is the free throw taken if the ball is in the air when the whistle is blown for an offensive foul? (9/15/12)

If the ball is in the air when an offensive foul is called, the "spot of the ball when the foul is called" shall be considered to be the location where the team awarded the free throw takes possession of the ball, except if the ball is inside the 2m area the free throw shall be taken on the 2 m line.

Rule 20-6: is it always a change of possession and a new shot clock when the referee blows the whistle and indicates "ball under?" (1/31/13)

Rule 20-6 is quite clear, it is a foul, "To take or hold the entire ball under the water when tackled." Therefore if the referee indicates "ball under" this is an ordinary foul resulting in a change of possession and a new shot clock. This means that the interpretation on p. 36, Rule 9-2-c is obsolete, and if the referee indicates ball under there should be a change of possession and a new shot clock.

Rule 20-11: When should a referee call an offensive player for being inside the 2m line? (1/31/13)

It is a foul "to be within 2 meters of the opponent’s goal, except when behind the line of the ball." An interpretation states, "Referees should not penalize an attacking player who momentarily enters the 2-meter area without interfering with the play. If the player continues to stay there, the player is affecting play by his/her very presence as that player is forcing a change in how or where the defense plays, and the foul should be called."

An offensive player who attempts to swim from one deep wing position to the other side, and does so by being inside the 2 meter area, is in violation of Rule 20-11 and the offensive foul should be called.

Rule 21-10 (Misconduct): Are all fouls committed during "interval time" to be considered Misconduct? (1/22/13)

This rule describes the penalty for player behavior including, "...the use of obscene, abusive, or threatening language or gestures, persistent foul play, or overaggressive fouls, or to refuse obedience to or show disrespect for a referee or official." The foul of Misconduct may be enforced during interval time or during play. Interval time is defined as, "the time between periods, during a timeout, before the restart after a goal, or before a penalty throw is taken."

It is important to note that not all fouls listed under Rule 21 (Exclusion Fouls), when penalized during interval time, are automatically considered Misconduct. Rule 21-10 describes specific player behavior that shall be punished by exclusion for the remainder of the game. During interval time a player may commit a foul under Rule 21 which is not considered Misconduct.


January 31, 2013 Rules Interpretations

FROM:  Bob Corb, National Coordinator of Officials; NCAA Men's and Women's Water Polo Rules Subcommittee.

SUBJECT:  Soft Headgear Interpretation.

Since the beginning of the women’s season, several questions have been brought up regarding the wearing of soft headgear for concussion prevention.  Please see the interpretation below regarding these types of headgear, and the official statement from the NCAA on soft headgear in non-helmeted sports.

Rule 5-4:  Is the use of soft headgear permitted for concussion prevention if the appropriate relates form (Appendix F) is completed?

The statement below is from the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports on the subject of helmets/soft headgear. Soft headgear includes concussion headbands/devices. Based on this statement from the NCAA, the use of helmets/soft headgear for concussion prevention is not permissible, and waivers may not be granted for this purpose.

All equipment worn by an athlete must comply with the applicable rule. This includes Rule 4 (Caps) and Rule 5-4 (Apparel--items likely to cause injury). Any item worn underneath the water polo cap must be in compliance with Rule 4. Exceptions to Rule 5-4 may be granted but a completed release form (Appendix F) must be available for presentation to the referees prior to any game in which the athlete wishes to participate. As stated above, the use of helmets/soft headgear for concussion prevention is not permissible, and waivers may not be granted for this purpose.  The NCAA will continue to monitor developments in this area and will consider adjustments to its position should valid scientific evidence arise.

Soft Headgear in Non-Helmeted Sports.

The NCAA does not view the use of soft headgear products as equipment for the prevention of concussion in non-helmeted sports. As explained below, soft headgear products may be worn in non-helmeted sports whose rules allow for such optional equipment, but the purpose of that equipment should be for reasons other than concussion prevention. In non-helmeted sports requiring a medical waiver for the use of such optional equipment, use of soft headgear as a condition to be medically cleared to play sports is ineffective. Therefore, the NCAA will not provide medical waivers for the use of soft headgear for the prevention of concussion in order to be medically cleared to play sports. It should be noted that there is no helmet which can prevent a concussion. There continues to be a need for valid scientific evidence that the use of such products decreases the incidence of concussion.

Concussion is a brain injury. It is important to note that there is a lack of clinical evidence supporting the value of the soft or padded headgear in the prevention of sports-related concussions. The NCAA recommends caution in utilizing these devices to permit medical clearance of a student-athlete if they would otherwise not be medically cleared to participate in their sport. Currently, wearing such headgear is not medically necessary to prevent concussions in order to play; however, this equipment may be used to cover lacerations and sutures as they are deemed appropriate within the sport’s playing rules.

Current design and recommended use of these devices fail to address the proposed mechanism of concussive injury, that being rotational acceleration and deceleration forces acting on the brain. Institutions should refer to equipment standards from NOCSAE, ASTM, HECC, and CPSC when considering protective equipment for student-athletes and ensure the equipment is used for mitigating the risk of injuries for which they are designed.

When considering the use of this optional equipment during practice or permitted competition, athletes and coaches should take the time to read the qualifying statements provided with such a product addressing its limitations, particularly to prevent serious head injuries. Wearing such a device may provide a false sense of security in the area of concussion protection by the player, their coaches and their parents. In addition, placing headgear on a student-athlete may indirectly justify striking them in the head by opponents, especially in sports where this has never been the intent (e.g., soccer, basketball, women’s lacrosse, etc).

Moreover, a false sense of security in the area of concussion protection increases the likelihood that players, coaches, and parents will consider the medical condition to be adequately addressed and may place less importance upon avoiding head impact, reporting concussion symptoms, and returning to play prior to full recovery following a concussion.

The NCAA will continue to monitor developments in this area and will consider adjustments to its position should valid scientific evidence arise.

David Klossner
NCAA Director of Health & Safety


September 30, 2012 Rules Interpretations

1) Rule 7-9 (Note 1): The whistle stops play. If the buzzer signifying the end of the 30/35 second possession clock or the end of a period sounds immediately after the referee whistles a foul, the referee administering the free throw must determine whether there was a clock operator error (failure to stop the clock in a timely manner) or if the clock was operated correctly and the buzzer sounded after the whistle due to normal human reaction time. The former is a correctable error, the latter is not.

2) Rules 7-10 Protests and 7-9 Correctable Errors: These two rules go hand-in-hand, and provide the framework for handling all protests. Rule 7-10 states that a coach may protest a misapplication of the rules or other correctable error, but not judgment calls by the referee.

Whenever possible, coaches are encouraged to file their protest at the time of the alleged misapplication of the rules or other correctable error, but they have until five minutes after the conclusion of the game to file the protest. In tournament play the tournament committee shall adjudicate any protests that occur. In the absence of a tournament committee the referees in charge of the game must adjudicate the protest at the time it occurs.

Rule 7-9 provides some direction as to how correctable errors should be handled by the referees and/or the tournament committee when a protest is filed for a misapplication of the rules or other correctable error. Included are the following statements, "No team shall gain an advantage over an opponent because of this type of error." and “... the referees must determine to the best of their ability which error(s) shall be corrected in interest of fairness."

In creating an opportunity for coaches  to protest misapplications of the rules and other correctable errors, it was the intent of the rules subcommittee that there be a mechanism by which these types of mistakes could be corrected when they created an unearned advantage for either team.  In any valid protest situation (i.e., misapplication of the rules or other correctable error), the first question that should be asked is, was an unearned advantage gained by either team? If the answer to that question is no, then the protest should be denied immediately. If the answer to the first question is yes, then the next question would be, is the team that was put at a disadvantage by the mistake seeking a remedy?

Again, if the answer to this question is no, then the protest should be denied immediately. The only time that a protest should be upheld, and any portion of a game replayed, would be when the team that was disadvantaged by the mistake is seeking a remedy for the error. At no time should the offended team be disadvantaged by correction of an error or the upholding of a protest.

The takeaway message here is twofold: (1) Not every correctable error needs to be corrected in order to obtain a fair result in a particular game. (2) When a protest is upheld, the referees and/or the tournament committee must decide  how best to neutralize the unearned advantage of one team caused by the correctable error, without creating a disadvantage to the offended team, in order to bring the game to a proper conclusion.

3) Rule 14-3-d (Note 2):  The referee administering the free throw should point to the five-meter marker on the deck, arm diagonal to the body.

4) Rule 14-3-d (Note 3):  This note does not apply to a free throw awarded for an offensive foul; the free throw for an offensive foul shall be taken from the spot (location) of the ball when the foul is called. (See Rule 19-1-c)

5) Rule 19-1-c:  If the ball is in the air when an offensive foul is called, the "spot of the ball when the foul is called" shall be considered to be the location where the team awarded the free throw takes possession of the ball, except if the ball is inside the two-meter area the free throw shall be taken on the two-meter line.

Past Interpretations


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