By Ken Reed
In the face of research revealing the dangers of repetitive sub-concussive head impact, and declining participation in high school football, the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association has adopted new rules limiting full contact practices.
But not everyone is happy.
The rules limit full contact drills to 15 minutes per week. Preseason full-contact drills are limited to six hours total. New Jersey’s old rules allowed 90 minutes of full-contact practice a week during the season and unlimited preseason full contact practices.
The change was applauded by Jesse Mez, an associate professor of neurology at Boston University and member of the school’s Alzheimer’s Center and CTE Center. Mez says there’s “good evidence” to support the connection between repetitive head impacts and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
“I think there are better ways of playing team sports and getting exercise than repeatedly hitting your head,” said Mez.
“But given the country’s interest in football and how much everybody loves it, if we are not going to stop playing, then we should reduce the amount of contact as much as we can.”
Some New Jersey football coaches don’t like the rules, with one coach calling the new rules “insulting” because it takes decision-making regarding how much full contact drills are needed out of the coaches’ hands.
Nevertheless, it’s a trend that won’t be reversed any time soon. In fact, full contact drills may be limited even more so in the future. The NCAA’s Ivy League has already eliminated all full contact work during in-season practices in order to protect the brains of the league’s players.
The new rules might also slow the decline in football participation in New Jersey, a traditional hotbed for high school football. Football participation has fallen for five consecutive years, with parental concerns about the game’s safety the primary reason cited. New Jersey officials hope the new rules will slow the decline in football participation.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
A League of Fans Special Report