Changes Could Be Coming To Michigan High School Football This Fall, Hoping to Limit Too Many Hits
A reduction in collision time during practices, which has been scientifically proven to help lessen the risk for concussions and injuries, could help Michigan high school athletes stay healthier.
LANSING, Mich. – Beginning as soon as fall 2019, high school football preseason and practices could look different across the state of Michigan. The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is considering changing contact rules in the sport, when its football committee meets in May.
The rule that is currently in place, since spring 2017, allows for one collision practice per day (maximum three hours) during preseason. In-season, teams can have up to 90 minutes of collision contact per week, which is full-speed contact with players wearing pads, according to Geoff Kimmerly, media and content coordinator at the MHSAA.
The idea to amend current rules comes in part from Practice Like Pros, an organization that is pushing for schools and states to limit contact in high school football to protect kids from injury.
There will be multiple changes if the new proposal is adopted. First, it would define specific terms, most commonly associated with tackling and blocking, more specifically.
“It would define, for our purposes, ‘collision’ as players making full contact at game speed where a player is taken to the ground,” Kimmerly said. “It would define ‘thud’ as players making contact at game speed, but without a player being taken to the ground.”
It would also change the amount of collision contact that players can have during the preseason to a maximum of six hours per week. At the ‘thud’ tempo, there would still be unlimited contact.
“During the preseason as well, an intra or inter-squad scrimmage would equal one hour of maximum collision contact (as only 11 players are on the field at one time, and not constantly in play, etc.),” Kimmerly said.
Once teams get to in-season, they would be allowed 30 minutes of live collision contact per week. The unlimited thud tempo would also stand.
Haslett football coach Charlie Otlewski changed contact rules for his team three years ago, and he said that other schools across the state have done the same.
“It was far before the concussion concerns that came out,” Otlewski said. “We just looked at it from a health standpoint. We feel we can get everything done that we need to get done from a football standpoint and from a coaching standpoint without having to go with the kind of old-school long sessions where you have controlled hitting and that kind of stuff.”
Football has received negative attention in recent years over safety concerns. Otelwski said he believes that this has contributed to lower enrollment numbers across the sport in general. While they have very few injuries at practice each season, he believes there is still room for improvement.
“We’ve already told the state we need more instruction, not less,” Otelwski said. “We’re one of the few states that does not have spring football practice. Coaches need more time – more instructional time – to teach better techniques across the board, not less.”