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South Dakota Activities Association Weighing Changes to Concussion Policy

At a meeting last week, the South Dakota High School Activities Association's board of directors discussed changes to its concussion policy, including limiting the amount of full-contact practice allowed in football during the preseason and in weekly practices.

Currently, the state's youth-concussion law requires parents or guardians to sign a concussion information form each year before their student-athlete is allowed to participate in athletics; mandates the removal of any student-athletes from practice or competition if they exhibit signs or symptoms of a concussion; and prevents any such athletes from returning until they no longer display signs or symptoms of a concussion and receive clearance from a licensed health-care professional. In other words, it contains all three components of Washington state's Zackery Lystedt Law, which the NFL considers to be model youth-concussion legislation.

However, now that every state has passed some form of youth-concussion law, many are going back and revising them based on the latest research. South Dakota is following in those states' footsteps, according to the minutes from the board's Jan. 14 meeting.

The National Federation of State High School Associations released a new position statement last fall after its concussion summit, which aimed to "assist (member associations) in planning for the 2015 football season and beyond," per the minutes. (The document has not yet been released to the public.) Based on the recommendations laid out in the NFHS position statement, the South Dakota association's executive staff recommended three changes to its concussion policy for football players effective this coming school year:

  • Limiting the number of full-contact action allowed per week during the football season. Student-athletes would be allowed no more than 30 minutes of full-contact practice per day, and no more than three nonconsecutive days of full-contact action per week.
  • Limiting football teams to one full-contact practice per day during the preseason. If a team runs two-a-days, only one can feature full contact.
  • Limiting players to no more than eight quarters played per week.

"Following discussion, staff will continue to research and refine these recommendations with input form administrators and coaches, create a question-and-answer fact sheet to assist in defining the recommendations, and bring back to the board for further discussion at future meetings," the minutes concluded.

In speaking with the Argus Leader. John Krogstrand, the SDHSAA's assistant executive director, shed additional light on the types of questions the staff would continue to tackle while formalizing these recommendations.

"We're going to need to further define some of the questions that would come up as a result of those policy recommendations from the NFHS position statement," said Krogstrand. He noted to the paper how football coaches could be running full-contact and noncontact drills at the same time during a practice, which raises the question of what exactly constitutes contact time.

However, Krogstrand did allude to changes being likely once these questions are resolved.

"Once information and science provide that there are new techniques to reduce risk to student-athletes, there naturally will be changes to policy," he said. 

California passed a law last summer prohibiting high school and middle school football coaches from conducting more than two full-contact practices per week, so there's precedent for the changes South Dakota is weighing. Don't be surprised if other states follow suit, given the forthcoming recommendations from the national association regarding concussion best practices.

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