New Rule Tied to Fewer Head Impacts in High School Football

Restricting full-contact practices to no more than two days a week reduces head impacts

football running back

WEDNESDAY, July 27, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Limiting tackling during high school football practices lowers the risk of head impacts, according to a study published online June 22 in the Journal of Athletic Training.

Steven Broglio, Ph.D., director of the NeuroTrauma Research Lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues reviewed head impacts among 26 football players from a single high school in Michigan in 2013. During that year, there were no rules regulating the number or duration of full-contact practices. The players had these practices with full-contact hitting about three days a week. The researchers then looked at the number of head impacts among 24 players at the same school in 2014, the year the rule limiting full-contact practices was instituted.

The researchers found that after the Michigan High School Athletic Association implemented the rule restricting full-contact practices to no more than two days a week, head impacts dropped by 42 percent. In addition to observing a significant overall decline in head impacts, the study authors also noted that linemen experienced the biggest reduction in head impacts.

"A rule change limiting full-contact high school football practices appears to have been effective in reducing head-impact exposure across all players, with the largest reduction occurring among linemen," the authors write. "This finding is likely associated with the rule modification, particularly because the coaching staff and offensive scheme remained consistent, yet how this reduction influences concussion risk and long-term cognitive health remains unknown."

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