By Greg Johnson, of NCAA.org
The Division I Football Oversight Committee on Wednesday endorsed a proposed guideline to reduce the recommended number of live-contact practices that teams conduct each week from two to one. The practice guidelines take effect six days before each team’s 2016 regular-season opening game and run through the final regular-season game or conference championship game.
The guidelines allow players who do not compete in a game in a particular week to participate in an additional live-contact practice to work on skill development and master proper techniques.
The committee made the recommendation during a teleconference Wednesday as a clarification to the inter-association consensus guidelines for in-season football practice contact that the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute helped develop in 2014.
The committee made the recommendation in an effort to improve player safety, believing it could decrease athlete exposure to concussion, including repeat concussion and overall head impact exposure. Data indicate that football players are more frequently diagnosed with sport-related concussion on days with an increase in frequency and higher magnitude of head impact.
Live-contact practices are defined as any practice that involves live tackling to the ground and/or full-speed blocking. A live-contact practice may occur in full pad or half pad (also known as “shell,” in which the player wears shoulder pads and shorts, with or without thigh pads). Live contact does not include “thud” sessions or drills that involve “wrapping up,” because in those scenarios players are not taken to the ground and contact is not aggressive in nature.
To assist schools with applying the definition, the committee also endorsed clarifying that a live-contact practice is any practice that involves players being taken to the ground.
The Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports is expected to recommend the same in-season, live-contact practice guidelines for Division II and Division III football programs.