California Law Cuts Prep Football Full-Contact Practice Time

As awareness surrounding the dangers of head injuries sustained through repeated trauma sweeps across the nation, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill to limit football practice for middle and high school students.

AB 2127 forbids contact practice in the off season and allows no more than two full-contact practices per week during preseason and regular season, reports Cindy Boren for The Washington Post.

Recently studies have reported that small repeated hits to the head can be as detrimental to long-term health as multiple concussions

The Sports Legacy Institute estimates that over 50% 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.”

The new law will take effect in January and applies to both public and private schools.  This makes California the 20th state to pass legislation that restricts practices for middle and high school football teams, reports Sharon Bernstein for Reuters.

The new law will also require approval from a medical professional before a player can return to the field after sustaining a head injury and any player who is suspected of having a head injury must be removed from athletic activity for the rest of the day.

The law will also restrict total practice hours to 18 per week. Certain lawmakers have questioned if the law will put players at a competitive disadvantage against students in other states.  Assemblyman Cooley isn’t concerned, noting that even Texas the setting of “Friday Night Lights” follows even stricter rules, limiting full-contact session to once a week for 90 minutes, reports CBS News.

While the law has been widely well received, there have been some complaints that the law will restrict coaches’ ability to pick a strong starting lineup for the fall or that it could even lead to more injuries because the players will be ill-prepared.

Mike Ivankovich, a coach at Acalanes High School in Lafayette believes the law is a good thing. He eliminated full-contact practices back in 2005 when he worked at Ygnacio Valley High  because he saw no link between tackling in practice and better performance on game days, reports Carolyn Jones for SF Gate.

However, some coaches say that practice on dummies is not a sufficient replacement for body-on-body contact.

“Unless you practice, you’re not going to know how to protect your head and neck, how to fall properly, or how to tackle someone else safely,” said Chad Nightingale, who has been the head football coach at Salesian High School in Richmond for 19 years. “That’s the irony of this.”

Republican Senator Joel Anderson voted against the law. He believes they shouldn’t be telling local officials how much time should be allocated to full-contact practice, report Patrick McGreevy and Eric Sondheimer from the Los Angeles Times. He expects the coaches to use common sense and be professional enough to understand their athletes and protect them.