Given the concerns about football and head trauma, the Florida High School Athletic Association has adopted full-contact practice limits for the first time in its history.
Frank Beasley, the executive director of the FHSAA, told USA TODAY High School Sports on Monday that the new guidelines will take effect Aug. 1.
Live contact during regular season and postseason practice will be allowed no more than three days per week and limited to no more than 30 minutes per day and a total of no more than 80 minutes per week. Contact also is not allowed on more than two consecutive days.
The guidelines define live contact as “drills with game-like conditions where players are taken to the ground.”
Florida has 549 schools that play football with 42,262 players, according to FHSAA figures.
“We feel good about the direction we’re going and excited to be part of making the game of football safer for our high school kids,” Beasley said.
“Safety is paramount in the game of football. We feel like it’s a great step and hopefully will provide a certain level of comfort for those who question level of safety. Football is always going to come with inherent risk. We can never stop working to make the game safer.”
Beasley said when FHSAA officials talked to coaches and coaches organizations around the state, most “were under the minutes or right at the minutes that were going to be part of the (new guidelines).”
With the addition of Florida, 46 states now have some limits on contact. New Hampshire, Delaware, South Dakota and Louisiana have no limits, according to Terry O’Neil, a former NFL executive and the founder of Practice Like Pros, an advocacy group that promotes safer football practice procedures.
Practice Like Pros suggests no contact at all in the spring, 30 minutes total a week in the regular season broken up at the coach’s discretion, and three hours for the entire preseason (including a scrimmage) also divided at the coach’s discretion. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio are the only states that match those guidelines in two of the three time periods.
“There’s still is a lot of work for us to do. Many states haven’t gone far enough,” O’Neil said. “Clearly to have Florida jump in is a major development. … The misery that is saved for 42,000 boys and their families is pretty significant.”
For preseason and spring practices, the acclimation period includes working with air or bags through the first five days with only helmets for the first two days and shells for the next three.
From the sixth day through the Monday of the first regular season game or the end of spring practice, live contact is allowed on no more than two consecutive practice days and limited to 40 minutes each day. Airs, bags or thud are unlimited.
Additionally, preseason and spring practice regulations mandate that teams cannot have two practices per day until the eighth day of practice and only one session per day can include live contact not to exceed 40 minutes.
Florida also has adopted a different definition for “thud,” using the NFL and Football Bowl Subdivision guidelines that thud is contact above the waist only with neither player being taken to the ground.