Over the past few years, lawmakers and sports organizations have passed countless new regulations designed to cut down on the number of brain injuries occurring in organized sporting. So far, few of these regulations have done much to prevent these brain injuries, but they have improved how schools address injured athletes after the fact.
Now, a new research project by the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have identified a strategy that can reduce the overall number of brain injuries in the football season. A recent study shows that limiting the amount of full-contact tackling during high school football practices significantly reduces the number of concussions among players.
The study, presented October 24 at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in Washington, D.C., sought to evaluate the impact of a regulation implemented by the state’s interscholastic athletic association limited the amount and duration of full-contact activities during practice.
The rule, first implemented in the 2014 season, bars full contact entirely during the first week of practice. Full contact is limited to 75 minutes of practice time during week 2, and is capped at 60 minutes per week for the rest of the season.
For this rule, full contact is specifically defined as drills or game situations when full tackles are made at a competitive pace and players are taken to the ground.
According to Tim McGuine, senior scientist I the department of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, the rate of sports-related concussions sustained during high school football practice was over twice the rate seen in seasons since the rule has been enacted.
“This study confirms what athletic trainers in high-school football have long believed about the association of full-contact drills or practices and the likelihood of concussion,” said McGuine. “This is probably also true for other football injuries such as sprains, fractures and dislocations.”
For the study, the researchers used data acquired from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Sports Injury Research Network, which has recruited and enrolled 16,000 adolescent athletes from 103 high schools and sports venues across the state.
McGuine says he believes the findings indicate that limiting full contact high school football practices is an important step for schools across the country.
“Educating high school coaches about limiting the amount of full contact would be an effective and economical way to help protect students from head injuries,” he said.