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California Proposes Limiting Crucial Element in High School Football Practices


"We're going to hurt our chances."

California lawmakers are proposing legislation that would limit the number of high school football practices with full-on tackling in its latest effort to curb concussions and other injuries.

Image source: KTNV-TV Image source: KNTV-TV

The bill proposes to only allow two 90-minute game-speed tackling practices each week and would ban full-contact practice during the offseason. According to KNTV-TV, the law, which was passed by the state Senate Thursday, would apply to public, private and charter schools.

The news station reported that limiting game-speed contact is something many coaches already do, but other football fans worry that it could actually lead to more injuries, rather than fewer.

"It's football. It's just how the game is," Vincent Polanco of San Jose, who suffered three concussions when he played football, told KNTV. "You come in. You know what's going to happen. You expect it. You can't prevent it."

Others worry about the disadvantage the lack of practice could put on potential scholarship recipients.

"Many of them can't afford to go to school," Nick Alfano, football coach for Santa Teresa High School in San Jose, told the news station. "And so if we're going to hurt our chances for kids to make scholarship opportunity then we need to be careful of it. It would be unfair."

Watch KNTV-TV's report:

According to Reuters, if the bill is signed into law by the governor, California would become the 20th state to restrict tackle practices for middle and high school teams.

Football teams are not the only ones seeing new restrictions as there is a push to reduce the number of injuries associated with the sport. Manufacturers of football helmets might soon need to meet a new set of standards that protect against certain concussion-causing forces — a step in the quest for more protection.

The organization that sets safety standards for athletic equipment prepared to adopt the testing criteria on Friday.

There is no concussion-proof football helmet, but an organization that sets safety standards for athletic equipment was preparing new testing criteria. (AP/Southern Impact Research Center) There is no concussion-proof football helmet, but an organization that sets safety standards for athletic equipment was preparing new testing criteria. (AP/Southern Impact Research Center)

Football helmets were designed to protect against catastrophic injuries such as skull fractures and bleeding in the brain, and are considered highly effective at that. They're tested for how they withstand direct blows, so-called linear forces that can make the brain bump back and forth.

The proposed new standard would add an additional test of how helmets perform when an impact also makes a player's head suddenly spin, causing the brain to stretch and twist inside the skull as it changes direction. Scientists call that rotational acceleration, and brain specialists say limiting both kinds of forces is important.

"We're plowing new ground here," Mike Oliver, executive director of the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, told The Associated Press.

The hope is that the standard might eventually spur safer helmet designs.

"I don't believe helmets will ever be the sole solution for concussion," said Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston University neurologist, a leading sports concussion expert and vice president of the athletic equipment standards committee. But, "it puts us on the road to developing helmets that will lessen the chance for concussion."

Once the standard goes into effect, expected in about a year, it would apply only to new helmets.

"We don't foresee any need to replace all the helmets that exist with new and different helmets," Oliver said. "This is a first step."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Front page image via Arina P Habich/Shutterstock.

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