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Tweaks to Practice Rules for H.S. Football Look to Reduce Concussions in Ohio

The Ohio High School Athletic Association's board of directors adopted policy changes Monday that limit the amount of full-contact practice allowed for football players, in an attempt to reduce the risk of concussions and other head trauma.

During the preseason—defined as all practices prior to the first regular-season game—teams can only hold one full-contact practice per day, even when holding two-a-day practices. In addition, the state association urges teams to give consideration "to the timing of full contact during the next day"—i.e., if a team holds a full-contact practice in its second practice session of the day, the first practice session of the next day shouldn't be full-contact.

Once the regular season begins, student-athletes are limited to no more than 30 minutes of full-contact practices per day and a maximum of 60 minutes of full-contact practices per week. Additionally, student-athletes can only participate in two full-contact practices over a seven-day span—in other words, coaches can't make them do 10-minute full-contact practice sessions more regularly. The association recommends teams also "consider limiting full-contact on consecutive days," although it stops short of setting a hard-and-fast rule to that degree.

"These regulations are being put into place for the safety of our student-athletes, and it is incumbent on coaches to monitor the contact in their practices," said Dan Ross, the state association's commissioner, in a statement. "Our coaches are educators and leaders. They want what's best for kids."

These changes, which the board of directors approved unanimously, go into effect August 1. They were based off July 2014 recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations' concussion summit task force, which factored in "relevant medical literature and current expert opinion." The task force admitted there wasn't enough data to validate a "best practices" for contact limits; however, it still recommended states allow full-contact practices no more than two or three times per week, with 30-minute daily limits. It also noted that teams may require a greater frequency of full-contact practices during the preseason "to allow for teaching fundamentals with sufficient repetition."

California was ahead of the curve in this regard, passing a law last summer that prohibits high school and middle school football coaches from conducting more than two full-contact football practices per week. Similar to the Ohio state association, the South Dakota High School Activities Association is also in the midst of considering changes to its concussion policy, including limits on the amount of full-contact practice allowed in football during the preseason and in weekly practices.

With the national federation having released specific recommendations regarding the amount of full-contact practices high school student-athletes should endure, it would come as no surprise to see other states begin weighing these changes shortly, too.


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