California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will limit football practices for middle-school and high school students, a movement that is gaining steam across the country as awareness of the dangers of repeated hits to the head increases.
The California law prohibits teams from holding full-contact practices during the off-season and limits them to no more than two 90-minute, full-contact practices a week during preseason and the regular season. Under the California measure, an athlete who has sustained a head injury or concussion must complete a supervised protocol of at least seven days, according to Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), who introduced the bill.
“AB 2127’s practice guidelines will reassure parents that their kids can learn football safely through three hours of full-contact practice … to maximize conditioning and skill development while minimizing concussion risk,” Cooley said (via the Los Angeles Timeshas).
The legislation in California, which was supported by the American Academy of Neurology, the Brain Injury Association of California and the California Interscholastic Federation, goes into effect in 2015 and applies to public, private and charter schools.
“There’s really not a big uproar about this because it really is nothing new for our coaches,” Brian Seymour, a CIF senior director, said (via the San Francisco Examiner).
That doesn’t mean, though, that coaches love the idea. They’ve expressed concerns about that fewer contact practices mean players will not be properly prepared to play and will suffer other injuries.
Still, studies have shown that repeated small hits to the head can be nearly as dangerous to long-term health as multiple concussions and the Sports Legacy Institute, created to “advance the study, treatment and prevention of the effects of brain trauma,” estimates that over 50 percent of brain trauma in football occurs in practice. The SLI advocates limited hitting in practices, but notes that contact must be permitted “so that players can learn to play safely, primarily to protect their spine. However, at some unknown point, over-repetition of hitting stops improving spine safety, and starts creating new problems for the brain.”
A number of other states, including Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan and Texas, have takes steps to ban or limit full-contact offseason practices in high schools, according to the SLI and the NCAA earlier this month suggested that schools hold no more than two contact practices a week in-season. It also recommended four contact practices per week during preseason and in no more than eight of the 15 sessions during spring football. The Pacific-12 and Ivy leagues acted ahead of the recommendations, adopting legislation last year to limit contact practices throughout the year.