NFHS Develops Concussion Guidelines for Football

In what has been a long time coming the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has released the long-awaited guidelines from their concussion summit in July.  The NFHS is basically the governing body that most, if not all, states look to when implementing rule changes in sports, policies for participation and for sports medicine advice/guidelines.  Many states do not act, even with good information, with out the NFHS “seal of approval”.

This has been evidenced in the past when it comes to concussion “mitigation”, in terms of undue risk – contact limitations.  There have been many states that have not waited for the NFHS (California, Arizona, Wisconsin come to mind) while there are others that sat on their hands regarding this topic.  Regardless of where your state is/was it now has some guidelines to follow when it comes to the controversial topic of impact exposure.

Before I post the full press release from the NFHS, I would like to highlight the recommendations from the 2014 NFHS Recommendations and Guidelines for Minimizing Head Impact;

  • “Live” and “Thud” are considered full-contact
    • I really like that there is a clear definition
  • Full-contact should be allowed in no more than 2-3 practices a week; 30 min a day and between 60-90 minutes a week.  Only glossed over was the fact that theNFHS strongly suggests that there should not be consecutive days of full-contact.
    • A great place to start, although there are a vast majority of programs, around here, that do not do more than 2-3 times a week.
    • The time limits are great.
    • Unaddressed is the specific back-to-back days of games to practice.  For example a Monday game and Tuesday full-contact practice.  Sure common sense should prevail, but there will be plenty of loophole finding on this issue.
  • Recognition of preseason practices needing more contact time to develop skills.
    • Obviously a sign that these guidelines are taking everything into consideration.
  • During 2-a-days only one session should be contact.
    • THANK YOU!
  • Review of total quarters played for each player
    • This has been one of my biggest points of contention with any concussion policy.  The risk for injury during a game is much higher and kids that play multiple levels have an exponentially higher risk.
    • Although nothing more was stated than above, this should get people talking and moving.  The issue, of course, will be monitoring this.  Regardless, the fact that this important point is included is a massive thumbs up!
  • Considerations for contact limits outside of traditional fall football season
    • Acknowledging the ever-growing practice of off-season practices.
  • Implementing a coach education program
    • Ideal for understanding all of this and the issues we face.
  • Education of current state laws and school policies (if schools don’t have one they should)
    • Putting pressure on the institutions to take some onus.
  • Emergency Action Plans (EAP) and Athletic Trainers should be utilized
    • AT’s should be at both games and practices.
    • EAP’s should be in place and the best person for taking care of an EAP is an AT.
    • The first “governing” body that has firmly suggested the use of athletic trainers for football at all levels in practice and games.  This is truly noteworthy, and appreciated.

Auspiciously omitted from this document was USA Football’s “Heads Up” tackling program.  They referenced the USA Football definitions of level of contact and coaching courses; but never mention the embattled “Heads Up” program.  I must say, my confidence in the NFHS has skyrocketed after reading this, and a lot has to do with the people on the task force.  I am looking squarely at: Mark Lahr, Tory Lindley, Steve McInerney and John Parsons.  Those gentleman are of the highest quality and character when it comes to athlete safety.

Here is the full press release…  Continue reading

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