Brain Injury Series Part 9: New High School Football Practice Limits in Florida

Contrary to what you might think, 60% to 75% of sports- related brain injuries to high school football players occur in practice, not in games.  In the NFL, that number is 3%.  In light of these troubling statistics, the Florida High School Athletic Association (“FHSAA”) has promulgated new practice limitations. Taking effect on August 1, 2016 aimed at reducing the risk of concussions.  The new mandatory guidelines will limit the amount of time high school football players can spend in live contact during practice.

Reducing Sports Related Brain Injuries

Before the start of the regular season, live contact can’t go over 40 minutes per practice and only on two straight days. Once the season starts the time allowed goes down to 30 minutes per practice, 80 minutes total in any particular week, and no more than 3 days during that week. According to the FHSAA’s Kyle Niblett, similar limits in Wisconsin reduced the number of concussions there by half.  The new rule is one more step in the ongoing effort to reduce the risk of sports-related brain injury.  “The game of football will always come with some inherent risk, but we will never stop working to try and make one of the greatest team sports on earth safer,” FHSAA Football Administrator Frank Beasley said.

New Practice Rules

The new rules were developed by the FHSAA with the help of Practice Like Pros founder Terry O’Neil. O’ Neil has been working with numerous high school associations nationally to change high school football and improve player safety.  Practice Like Pros is Connecticut-based, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was born on Super Bowl Weekend, 2013. Soon after the suicides of former NFL players Dave Duerson and Junior Seau.  Its mission revolves around five core objectives:

  1. Convert youth leagues to flag football. No contact football earlier than 9th grade.
  2. No full-contact practice in spring/summer/off-season, 3 hours full-contact including scrimmage(s) in pre-season, 30 minutes per week in-season.
  3. Players must self-diagnose and report concussion symptoms because: The Second Impact Can Kill You.
  4. Full-time athletic trainer or comparable medical professional on every team. EMS on site at every game.
  5. Scientific study of catastrophic injury and brain tissue bank maintained at a national research center.

Brain Injury Attorneys

The attorneys at Heintz & Becker support these efforts to increase the safety of our high school football players.  We invite you to seek the advice of our experienced team of injury attorneys if you or someone you love for has suffered a sports-related brain injury or other serious physical injury.  Most importantly, we urge everyone involved to play by the rules, make safety their number one priority and report rule violations to the appropriate authorities.  If you suspect someone may have suffered a concussion, take action and seek immediate medical attention from a concussion specialist.

Source(s): First Coast News, “New safety procedures for Florida high school football players”, posted June 10, 2016; Space Coast Daily, “Florida High School Athletic Association Limiting Contact During Football Practice This Season”, posted June 9, 2016; WUFT, “Florida High Schools Must Report Number Of Concussions Next Year”, posted June 14, 2016; Practice Like Pros