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Calif. Lawmakers Pass Bill Limiting Full-Contact Football Practices

In an attempt to reduce the risk of concussions, California lawmakers have sent a bill to Gov. Jerry Brown that would prohibit middle and high school football teams from holding more than two full-contact practices per week.

AB 2127, which the Senate passed by a vote of 23-5 on Thursday, would also prohibit middle and high school football coaches from holding a full-contact practice during the offseason, and would limit them to only 90 minutes of full-contact practice on any given day during the preseason and regular season.

The Ivy League implemented a similar reduction in full-contact practices back in 2011, and the Pac-12 Conference announced its intention to follow suit last summer. In 2012, Pop Warner implemented a ban on coaches using more than one-third of practice time for contact drills. Even the National Football League has cut back on full-contact practices; its latest collective bargaining agreement restricts coaches to a total of 14 padded practices throughout the 17-week regular season, 11 of which must be held within the first 11 weeks of the season.

On the state level, the Maryland education department released recommendations last summer aiming to reduce the number of contact practices allowed for youth-athletes who participate in collision sports (not just football). Earlier this year, Connecticut lawmakers approved a bill that would expand the state's youth-concussion law; however, a limit on practice time for contact sports failed to survive the legislative process.

One of the five state senators who voted against the bill, Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale, told the Los Angeles Times that placing a limit on full-contact practices could reduce coaches' ability to teach players proper tackling techniques. He also expressed concern about football players who hoped to continue their athletic careers past high school.

"[The bill] distinctly puts our kids in California at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting," Knight told the paper.

Last summer, a study published in the online edition of the Annals of Biomedical Engineering found high school football players to be exposed to a greater volume of high-level head impacts during practices compared with games. The football players experienced more head impacts during games on average (15.5) than practices (9.4), but the risk of concussion was found to be greater during practices than games. A joint Virginia Tech-Wake Forest study published online in the same journal in February 2012 reached the same conclusion.

So, even if Knight's fears about college recruiting are justified, it may only be a temporary position. Just as states began passing a wave of youth-concussion laws once Washington got things rolling in 2009, limits on contact in youth-collision sports could be the next major initiative sweeping the country in terms of concussion prevention.

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