Updated: 6/14/2016, 5:01 p.m.
High schools will be required to report the number of concussions that occur per sport beginning next school year.
The requirement was part of a broader discussion on the new guidelines addressing football live contact drills at the Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors meeting Tuesday.
The Florida High School Athletic Association plans to limit live contact between football players starting Aug. 1 in hopes of minimizing the risk of concussions.
The guidelines limiting live contact drills, in which players tackle each other to the ground, were created specifically for Florida’s high school football programs and were shared with the Football Coaches advisory Committee and the Athletic Director Advisory Committee for the FHSAA.
“This wasn’t a surprise to our coaches, they knew it was coming. I made sure they understood why it was coming,” said Frank Beasley, Director of Athletics for FHSAA.
Beasley said this is just the start of of what the FHSAA would like to do to address player safety at the high school level.
“We feel really good about what we got here and we’re going to continue to educate our coaches on how to run a proper practice and what a proper practice looks like underneath guidelines,” Beasley said.
Original story: The new limits will allow 30 minutes per day of live contact drills, where players tackle each other to the ground, and 80 minutes total for the week during the regular season. These drills can only occur in practice three days a week, with no more than two consecutive days, according to a press release by the FHSAA.
Starting on day six of the preseason until the Monday before the first regular season game, 40 minutes of live-contact drills will be allowed a day and will not be allowed more than two days in a row during the week. During days with two practices, only one may have live contact drills.
“Protecting our student athletes is paramount in growing the game of football and this administrative procedure is a step in the right direction,” said FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing in a June 6 release.
Before these limits, it was up to each individual county and coach to decided how much live contact drills could be used during practice.
Gainesville High School head football coach Mark Latsko said that the new rules won’t affect them because they’ve been limiting live contact drills for years.
Concussions occur when the brain hits the side of the skull. They can happen during any kind of contact— not just head-to-head.
Football leagues at each level have taken steps to reduce the risk of injury, mostly through rule changes, such as penalizing targeting or leading with the helmet when tackling.
“When you’re hitting less you’re reducing the exposure to hits so intuitively you would think it would decrease some of the concussions,” said Jon Boone, research coordinator for the NCAA Department of Defense Concussion Study at the University of Florida.
But it comes down to the form of the hit. Limiting the live contact only goes so far if the right form isn’t taught, Boone said.
The athletes playing football are bigger and more athletic now than they have been in the past. Combine that with updated protective gear and players can use their bodies as weapons, said Dr. Jason Zaremski, co-medical director for the University of Florida’s High School Outreach Program and assistant professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation.
“It’s on the coaches, parents and organizations to teach them how to hit,” he said.
There are no plans to limit the drills where players are not tackled to the ground.
Terry O’Neil, founder of Practice like Pros, who’s mission is to reduce concussions in high school football, helped the FHSAA come up with these limits.
“I think it is very reasonable. I definitely think that it will limit concussions,” Zaremski said.