By David Fong
MIAMI COUNTY — When area high school football teams officially open practice in one week, they’ll do so under a new set of safety guidelines provided by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
The biggest change will mean less full contact — in hopes of limiting concussions — for high school football players. The OHSAA is joining numerous other state high school athletic organizations adopting recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion Summit Task Force.
The most noticeable change to high school football practices — which will open Aug. 1, per OHSAA rules — will be to “two-a-day” practices during the preseason. Effective immediately, individual players will only be allowed to participate in full contact drills once per day during two-a-day practices. Teams will be allowed to run full contact drills in both practices, but each individual player will only be allowed to participate in full contract drills during one of those practices every day.
“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,” OHSAA Commissioner Dr. Daniel Ross said in a press release. “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 OHSAA already had a “five-day acclimatization period” in place prior to preseason contact drills. Once preseason practice begins, the only protective equipment players are allowed to wear the first two days are helmets. Shoulder pads are added on days three and four. Full pads are allowed on the fifth day and full contact is allowed beginning on the sixth day of practice.
Once the season officially begins — after each team has played its first regular-season game — there will be several new safety regulations implemented into practices, as well. Following a team’s first game, no individual player will be allowed more than 30 minutes of full contact during any one practice and no more than 60 minutes of full contact during a week-long period.
Also, players will be allowed a maximum of two days of full contact practice during a seven-day span. While the OHSAA will allow full contact practices on consecutive days, it has discouraged individual schools from doing so.
“These regulations are being put into place for the safety of our student-athletes, and it is incumbent on coaches to monitor the contact in their practices,” Ross said. “Our coaches are educators and leaders. They want what’s best for kids, and these regulations are in line with these safety recommendations. As the report also states, these regulations will evolve and may become more restrictive as additional concussion research emerges.”
High school football teams are allowed to begin practicing Aug. 1. Teams may play scrimmages Aug. 8-22. Teams are allowed to open the regular season the week of Aug. 24.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong