Jan 29, 2015
Safe Practices

In what may soon become a trend on a national level, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the University Interscholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee have both taken steps that aim to make practice time safer for high school football players.
In Washington, the WIAA recently passed legislation limiting summer football participation, which allows a maximum 20 team summer practices, with no more than 10 of them full-contact days.

“Some of the reasoning behind it is concussions,” Marty Parkhurst, Orting (Wash.) High School Athletic Director and Head Football Coach told the News Tribune. “Some of it is also liability.”

The rule also states that if a high school player wants to turn out for team-related summer activities, they may do so only after participating in three consecutive non-contact practices, which count toward the 20-practice allotment.

“Before, there were no rules about summer football. The WIAA basically said you were on your own,” Parkhurst said. “This is a step in the right direction. We probably needed some rules to rein everyone in, and make it a level playing field.”

For the UIL, recommendations from the Medical Advisory Committee, a group of group of doctors, athletic trainers and athletic administrators, include limiting football programs to 90 minutes of full-contact, game-speed practices per player per week during the regular season and playoffs. Before taking effect, the recommendation must be approved by the UIL Legislative Council in June and signed into effect by the commissioner of education. It’s interesting to note that the Medical Advisory Committee has a 100 percent recommendation approval rate since the group’s inception in 2001.

“It’s been the record of the Medical Advisory Committee since the start to be out front on issues,” UIL athletic director Mark Cousins told the Dallas Morning News. “I think it’s just another example of the fact that they are continually studying these issues to make sure that they are out in front and looking at all the things that are out there to make sure that the game is as safe as it can be.”

Currently, the UIL does have limits on the amount of time teams may practice, but there is nothing that regulates how that time is used. The new recommendation defines “full-contact” practices as something done at game speed, with tackling or blocking to the ground.

“I think, for the vast majority of the coaches, that fits in their practice schedule without them having to make any adjustments at all,” said Texas High School Coaches Association Executive Director D.W. Rutledge, a member of the committee and former state-title winning football coach, voted for the proposal.

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