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Texas May Begin Restricting Contact in High School Football Practices

High school football coaches in Texas could soon be facing restrictions on the amount of full contact allowed in practices per week, assuming the University Interscholastic League medical advisory committee has its way.

Last month, the UIL committee unanimously recommended limiting high school teams to 90 minutes of full-contact, game-speed practices per week during the regular season and the playoffs, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Such practices would be defined as those that include tackling and blocking to the ground.

The UIL Legislative Council will consider the proposal in June. If approved, state commissioner of education Michael L. Williams would be the one responsible for signing the proposal into effect.

A number of coaches told the Star Telegram that implementing the rule would have little effect, as they already limit the amount of full-contact, game-speed practices per week.

"We're supposed to be a physical team, I guess, and I would say we have not broken that rule since the '70s," said Steve Lineweaver, head coach of the Euless Trinity High School squad, to the paper.

Earlier this week, a state lawmaker withdrew a bill similar in nature to the medical advisory committee's recommendation, which would have prohibited middle or high school football teams from holding more than one full-contact practice per week. Rep. Eddie Lucio III, the sponsor of the bill, told The Dallas Morning News that he'd leave the decision to the UIL.

Lucio's bill was since amended to establish a sports injury pilot program to evaluate concussion-prevention methods used for full-contact athletic drills or live game simulations. The program would include preseason neurocognitive baseline testing, a return-to-play protocol for athletes who suffer a concussion, and post-injury neurocognitive testing.

A restriction on full-contact practices wouldn't be without precedent. Last summer, the Pop Warner youth football leagueimplemented a ban on coaches utilizing more than one-third of practice time for contact drills. In the summer of 2011, the Ivy League began limiting coaches to no more than two full-contact practice days per week, three fewer than the National Collegiate Athletic Association allows. The conference began limiting the number of full-contact practices in men's lacrosse last summer, too.

The National Football League's latest collective bargaining agreement also limits coaches to a total of 14 padded practices throughout the regular season, 11 of which must be held within the first 11 weeks of the season. During the NFL playoffs, teams are limited to one padded practice per week under the terms of the CBA.

The UIL isn't the only state high school athletic association grappling with the appropriate amount of full-contract practices this spring, either. The Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Board approved a recommendation from the AIA sports medicine advisory committee last month that restricts coaches from holding more than half of preseason practices in full pads and more than one-third of regular-season practices in full pads. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association also approved amendments last month that limit coaches from holding more than 10 practices with full pads and full contact.

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