OHIO — With increasing concerns on the long term effects of head trauma in the game of football, the Ohio High School Athletic Association recently adopted recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Concussion Summit Task Force, in an effort to reduce the risk for concussions and head impact exposure.
The recommendations were approved by the OHSAA’s Joint Advisory Committee on Sports Medicine in June and presented to OHSAA Commissioner Dan Ross and the OHSAA staff, while the OHSAA Board of Directors unanimously approved the changes in a conference call vote Monday, July 13.
With football and the fall sports season officially beginning on Saturday, Aug. 1, the changes are effective immediately
In a press release sent by the commissioner of the OHSAA, the following statement was made:
“With the support and leadership from the football coaches association, we have been out in front of concussion awareness and education, and these changes will now bring Ohio up to a place as a national leader in this area,” Ross said. “Like many of our regulations, these guidelines are to be followed and monitored by member schools and coaches, but we are fortunate in Ohio that many coaches have already been following these safety measures. There will always be a risk for concussion, but football is safer now than it has ever been, and these guidelines will make it even safer.”
The three principles that the guidelines reflect include exposure of an individual athlete to full contact in terms of frequency and duration, the cumulative effect of the exposure on an individual athlete, and recovery time for each athlete after contact.
First and foremost, the regulations apply to individual student athletes while position groups can alternate contact to adhere to the regulations. Contact with soft equipment does not count toward these limitations either. Lastly, the task force recognized that preseason practice does require more full-contact time than regular season practices, to allow for the learning of fundamentals.
Ohio already adheres to several of the guidelines regarding practice and recovery times, but the following are changes adopted by the OHSAA:
During two-a-day practices, full contact is only permitted during one of these practices. The rule also states that consideration should be given to the timing for the next day’s practices as well – such as, if full contact occurs during session two, there should not be full contact during session one the following day.
All practices after the first season game must limit full contact on consecutive days – with a student-athlete being limited to 30 minutes of full contact per day and is only allowed up to 60 minutes of full contact per week. They can also only be involved in a maximum of two full contact practices in a seven-day span.
A few area coaches view the changes as mostly positive, but are still unsure of the lasting impact that limited contact will have on their team.
“My concern in this whole matter is the injuries that could possibly occur on Fridays if our kids are not prepared enough to take the hits they will take on Fridays,” said Twin Valley South coach Tyler Cates. “I also worry that tackling will be worse and will effect defenses more and cause more injuries because of the lack of contact they’ve been able to practice, but we will see. It is a very touchy matter and I understand the approach and respect the approach to minimize serious injuries, especially to your brain.”
But Cates, along with Eaton’s head coach Brad Davis, both stated that the regulations would not have much affect of their practices during the season.
“Most of our practice time is divided into individual position periods and small group periods. We rarely, if ever, go full live practice. The risk for any injury – not just concussions – is too great,” said Davis.
In addition, the NFHS Concussion Summit Task Force has advised the OHSAA to review its current policy on total quarters permitted, which currently stands at 50 quarters total for the season for high school student-athletes and 32 quarters for seventh and eighth grade student-athletes (or 28 quarters if only seven games are played).
The Task Force also asks the OHSAA and all member schools to continue to work with the football coaches association and all member schools to ensure that coaches have completed the NFHS Fundamentals of Coaching course (which is a requirement in Ohio); continue to place emphasis on proper fitting and care of helmets; continue to place emphasis on proper tackling and hitting techniques at all times, especially before full contact begins; know and follow the state law on concussion management protocol; develop and put into practice an Emergency Action Plan (will be distributed by the OHSAA in the fall 2015 as part of the “Anyone Can Save a Life” program); whenever possible, have a certified athletic trainer present at all football practices and contests; continue to place emphasis on hydration; and continue to place emphasis on inclement weather regulations.
For more information, the report of the recommendations and guidelines from the NFHS Concussion Summit Task Force can be found at http://www.ohsaa.org/medicine/2014NFHSMinimizingHeadImpact.pdf