Beginning this fall, high school football players in Florida will be limited to no more than 80 minutes of live contact in practices per week during the regular season, the Florida High School Athletic Association announced Monday.
The new policy, which defines live contact as “a drill in game-like conditions” and “the only time that players are taken to the ground,” prohibits teams from conducting such drills more than three days per week throughout the regular season and postseason. Teams are limited to 30 minutes of live contact per day and 80 minutes per week under the policy, and cannot feature such drills in more than two consecutive days.
During the preseason, teams are prohibited from any live contact in their first five days of practice. In the first two days of preseason, players can only wear helmets—no shoulder or leg pads—and must run drills unopposed without contact. During the third, fourth, and fifth days of preseason practice, they may wear shoulder pads and leg pads and run drills against bags or “another soft-contact surface,” but they still can’t be taken to the ground. All five of these practices can be no more than three hours long, although coaches are allowed to hold walkthroughs (which are usually without pads and focus on the strategic side of a game plan) on the same day provided there’s at least a one-hour break between the practice and the walkthrough.
Over the remainder of the preseason, teams are limited to 40 minutes of live contact per day, and they can’t conduct live-contact drills more than two days in a row. Teams can begin two-a-day practices on Day 8 of the preseason, but only one practice per day may include live contact.
“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,” FHSAA football administrator Frank Beasley told USA Today High School Sports. “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 the level of safety. Football is always going to come with inherent risk. We can never stop working to make the game safer.”
To develop these new regulations, the FHSAA worked with Terry O’Neil, a former NFL executive and the founder of Practice Like Pros, which is a youth-advocacy group that aims to make high school football practices safer. O’Neil told USA Today that upon adopting this new policy, Florida became the 46th state to have some limit on the amount of contact allowed in high school football practices. New Hampshire, Delaware, South Dakota, and Louisiana are the four states without any such restrictions at the moment, per O’Neil.
Practice Like Pros aims to prohibit contact football earlier than 9th grade, converting youth leagues to flag football. It recommends no full-contact practice during the offseason, three hours (including scrimmages) of full-contact drills during the preseason, and no more than 30 minutes per week during the regular season. The organization also asks schools to have a full-time athletic trainer or “comparable medical professional” on site at every football game.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.