New California Football Contact Limits Provide Unique Opportunity to Study Effect on Concussions
According to the findings of a study published in the May 4th online edition of JAMA Pediatrics, practice periods are a major source of concussion for the high school football player.
While the actual rate of concussion is higher in game play, just over half of the reported concussions took place during practice times.
The authors suggest that strategies should be implemented to evaluate technique, limit player-to-player contact and overall head impact exposures, and reduce other higher risk practice situations.
While the jury is still out on what constitutes proper technique, the mandates of California Assembly Bill 2127 will afford a vital opportunity to further study the influence of practice time limitations on concussion rates in high school football players.
The bill prohibits high schools from conducting more than 2 full-contact practices per week during the preseason and regular season, and prohibits this full-contact portion of the practice from exceeding 90 minutes in a single day.
To clarify, "full-contact practice" means a practice where drills or live action is conducted that involves collisions at game speed, where players execute tackles and other activity that is typical of an actual tackle football game.
Based on the findings of the above JAMA Pediatrics study, the hypothesis is that these new restrictions should reduce concussion rates in practice simply by limiting exposure time and cumulative risk.
Now, one might ask, why would there possibly not be a reduction in concussion rates?
- Is there a chance that limited practice times could lead to less comfort with tackling that could result in an actual higher game rate of concussion?
- Could football programs feel pressure to get in as much contact as possible during the 2 allocated 90 minutes practice periods, possibly leading to more cumulative exposure during that time?
A multi-location review of concussion rates (game and practice) is essential to confirm the effects of California AB 2127.
In such a study, I would also suggest that concussion rates be broken down by academic grade of player, and even take into account years of experience of tackle football.
I wonder if neophytes (namely incoming freshman) who have never previously played tackle football could be at higher risk from contact practice time limits. Would the contact time restrictions have less influence on upperclassman who have played tackle football for a longer period of time?
All stakeholders will be eager to see if indeed there is a documented reduction in overall concussion rates, and if such a reduction is seen across all levels of high school football.