Football can be a violent game. Injuries such as concussions can happen. But recently the Ohio High School Athletic Association, in trying to keep in line with many other states, have adopted new rules as it pertains to concussion prevention.
They will be putting into action recommendations set forth by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Concussion Summit Task Force, which are designed to reduce the risk in football for concussions and head impact exposure.
The OHSAA Board of Directors unanimously approved the changes in a conference call vote Monday, July 13.
The changes that have been adopted include limiting full contact on consecutive days for student-athletes. Athletes will also be limited to 30 minutes of full contact in practice per day, 60 minutes of full contact in practice per week, and only allowed to have full contact in a maximum of two practices in a seven-day span.
However, with the recent national attention received on the issue of concussion prevention in sports, more particularly football, some coaches have already taken it upon themselves to adapt.
“It’s not going to change much for us,” said Swanton second-year coach Mike Vicars. “We do a lot of blocking and tackling versus dummies, shields and sleds already. Even if it’s bodies, we do thud tackling which is not full out contact.”
It may even be a blessing in disguise, says the coach.
“It’s tough to physically beat your guys up all week, then expect them to be at their best on Friday. So we will embrace it.”
While coaches are extremely competitive, it is in their best interests to keep their players safe.
“As a staff we decided in the off-season that we would greatly reduce the amount of contact we have our players endure this season and our plans are very similar to what the state has passed through,” said Evergreen coach Paul Amstutz. “Concussions have been a huge debate lately in this great sport, and our staff decided that we would change our practices to reduce the risk of concussions.”
Some would say that it may even make the game more fundamentally sound. But at the very least, these new rules are putting emphasis on what matters most – player safety.
“We are always looking for ways to teach what we need without being body to body. This will call for a little more creativity,” said Vicars. “It is a surprising change but we feel we will be fine.”
“As a coaching staff, player safety is our number one concern and we will follow anything the state hands down to make sure our athletes’ risk of concussions are reduced as much as possible,” added Amstutz.
For some, the adjustment will take some getting used to.
“It will definitely mean that coaches will have to tweak practice schedules and maximize our contact time,” said Wauseon coach Travis Cooper. “Once coaches and teams get used to the new regulations, I’m sure it will be fine. The coaching profession is full of instances where you need to adjust on the fly and be very flexible. This is just another instance.”
His concerns, however, are similar to that of many others.
“Tackling is such a vital part of our sport and simulating a correct (and) safe tackle is a big part of practices,” explained Cooper. “The hope is that it doesn’t further put kids at risk when you get minimal reps in practice at full speed and then you ask kids to use correct (and) safe technique for two-plus hours on Friday nights. We will adjust by doing more things with bags and sleds.”
The new rules were put into effect immediately and will be implemented when teams begin fall camps in August. No contact is permitted prior to the season, as the rules for Ohio already state.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010