They include limiting live hitting by football players during practice.
Recommendations to strengthen concussion safety for student athletes have been issued by the Maryland State Department of Education. They include limitations on live hitting by football players during practice, and the classification of certain sports as "collision" and "contact."
"They don't carry with them any kind of legal backing, but from our understanding is that most counties, most athletic directors and most coaches believe they're a good thing. And we have reason to believe they'll be upheld," says MSDE spokesman Bill Reinhard.
The recommendations classify football, ice hockey and boys lacrosse as "collision" sports, meaning the purpose of the game is to hit or collide with other players, or objects, including the ground, with great force. Basketball, field hockey, girls lacrosse, soccer and wrestling are listed as "contact" sports, in that athletes make contact with each other or inanimate objects usually with less force. Sports classified as "limited contact" are baseball, high jump, pole vault, softball and volleyball. That means contact with other athletes or inanimate objects is less frequent. And sports listed as "non-contact" are badminton, bowling, discus, shot put, triple jump, long jump, golf, swimming, track and cross country, and tennis.
Under the recommendations, football coaches are urged not to hold live hitting until the sixth day of practice, and it's to be limited to full padded practice days, when players are dressed and equipped according the rules set down by the National Federation of High School Sports Associations.
Players are also asked to find other techniques when it comes to tackling players on the opposing team. "Back in the old, old days, players in football used their helmets almost as weapons. They're safety equipment. They shouldn't be used in that area. We're trying to reduce that. We're trying to get people to use their shoulders and their arms when tackling," says Reinhard. In other words, he says, no head-butting.
The National High School Sports Related Injury Surveillance Study for 2011-2012 found that head and face concussions accounted for 23.6% of total injuries. The data also found that 95% of these injuries occur while blocking, being blocked, tackling or being tackled. MSDE says similar studies by Ivy League and the NCAA reported similar findings at the college level when it came to concussions.
These recommendations were developed by the MSDE Concussion Implementation Advisory Panel, which is a group of medical professionals and athletic officials from across Maryland. The panel was acting on a directive made by the State Board of Education on May 21st.
These recommendations are in addition to coaches, trainers and other athletic officials who are required to know the signs of concussion in players, and remove them from the playing field. "The great thing is now we know how to treat it, and we know how to recognize it," says Reinhard.