A nationwide push to reduce concussions in football players was adopted last week by the Ohio High School Athletic Association and will affect how our local teams train.
The OHSAA made three changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion Summit Task Force to minimize head impacts for players during practice.
Now players are limited to 30 minutes of full contact in practice per day and 60 minutes of full contact in practice per week.
Each athlete can only be involved in full contact for a maximum of two practices in a seven-day span and a non-contact practice has to be played between full-contact practices.
Pads are now barred from practices in the off-season, when any contact is also prohibited.
The changes will take effect Aug. 1.
Oberlin athletic director Ty Stillman said changing practice schedules to avoid back-to-back contact days is a big shift. Oberlin used to have full-contact practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
“We might have to reassess that to have contact on Monday and Wednesday,” he said.
Comets head football coach Bill Fishleigh said the number of full contact practices in a day is the only rule that will affect his team.
The other rules are not expected to drastically impact Oberlin, Wellington, and Amherst football teams our reporters cover. The three in our coverage areas have already moved to prevent injury with early adoption of most of the new OHSAA rules.
“Our coaches have been really proactive in the number of days we do have contact,” said Wellington athletic director Denny Ziegler.
All three of our local teams have smaller rosters, so to avoid injury have already limited full-contact practices.
“You need to get them ready for a game and keep them safe,” Fishleigh said. “We want to stay away from (full contact) as much as possible.”
Ziegler said the players never have practices where they are tackling each other to the ground. Athletes practice proper tackling techniques with drills and dummies.
“The most we ever do is team periods and that’s 15 to 20 minutes,” he said. “We don’t want to risk injuries. For us as a football program it’s more about doing things the right way.”
Stillman, Ziegler, and Fishleigh are glad the OHSAA has adopted new regulations to reduce concussions among players during practices: “It’s the smart thing to do,” Stillman said.
The three coaches said they’ve watched college football teams make similar changes in the past few years and incorporated the safety ideas into their high school programs.
Stillman and Fishleigh said a typical season will result in concussions for two players. That number has not shifted much in recent years, even with increased safety regulations in place.
Ziegler, however, said he has seen a decrease in the number of concussions among football players and he’s looking into purchasing new helmets to help prevent further head injuries.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.
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Valerie Urbanik | Civitas Media Oberlin’s Justin Smith attempts to sack Buckeye’s quarterback Nathan Polidori during the 2014 regular season.
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