The Illinois High School Association heard about two changes to its rules for full-contact football practices at its regular board meeting on April 21. The IHSA executive board is expected to vote on the changes at its June meeting.
Both changes are aimed at reducing the chances players will suffer concussions or any traumatic brain injury, which could be permanent. Many football stars have developed chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or C.T.E., the degenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head that has been found in the brains of dozens of former football players, the New York Times reports.
The first change would limit the amount of full-contact practices allowed per week, at which players wear full pads. Teams would be limited to three days of live full-contact per week, with a total of 90 minutes of live full-contact to be used over the course of those three days.
The second change would allow only one of two practice sessions held on the same day to contain full contact.
“These steps represent the next logical evolution in optimizing the safety of student-athletes in the game of football,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a press release. “The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and Football Advisory Committee have worked together to formulate these limitations over the past year. We appreciate their efforts, as well as the guidance provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion Summit Task Force.”
The NFHS recently revised its rules for the unnecessary roughness penalty. Focusing on risk minimization, the definition of “spearing” was revised. This illegal helmet contact is now defined simply as “an act by any player who initiates contact against an opponent at the shoulders or below with the crown (top portion) of his helmet.” The association officially defines “targeting” as any “contact to an opponent above the shoulders.”
“The committee spent considerable time discussing and clarifying expectations related to contact involving any player that is deemed excessive or unnecessary, including spearing, that may occur during play,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association. “Minimizing risks to players involved in these situations must remain at the forefront of the game.”
If it doesn’t remain at the forefront, the game of football will disappear from high school. I have been very clear on these pages that if the nature of football blocking and tackling doesn’t change, football can no longer be supported as an extracurricular activity in our schools.
The IHSA committees both “felt these limitations reflected realistic practice plans already being utilized by our coaches,” IHSA Assistant Executive Director Craig Anderson said. “It provides enough time to continue to teach players to tackle safely and properly, while also providing coaches with flexibility.”