Changes coming to high school football practice

New policies aim to reduce head trauma, help athletes adjust to play

Safety is the No. 1 concern for the head of athletics at Novi Community Schools.

"Every one of our coaches have gone through an online course about concussion awareness and that's a mandate by the national federation and by the state of Michigan," said Brian Gordon, Novi Community Schools' director of athletics and physical education.

Gordon told Local 4 athletes involved in all contact sports and collision sports like football, receive baseline testing for concussions before the season.

"If a student athlete does receive a concussion, or we suspect as a concussion, we have something to start with, we put them back through the test to see where they're at," said Gordon.

Novi High's head football coach Jeff Burnside said they take no chances if they suspect a player has been hurt.

"If they come to us and say, 'Hey coach, I got hit in the head,' they're done until we know that we have that they've passed that concussion test they've passed through a doctor, they've passed through a trainer to get back on the field," said Burnside.

Gordon said a doctor volunteers his time on the sidelines during the football games. However, getting hurt is not just a concern during the games.

"The majority of injuries happen in a practice, they don't happen on a Friday night," said Gordon.

Beginning with the start of high school football season in August, the Michigan High School Athletic Association is instituting some changes to practice procedures with the goal of helping student athletes adjust to playing and to reduce head trauma.

"They recognize that if you do this hit day in and day out that it's going to take a toll on these bodies and something is going to happen," said Gordon.  

Gordon said many coaches are already making these changes.

The MHSAA also said schools cannot schedule more than one "collision" practice in a day before the first regular-season game.

According to MHSAA, a collision practice involves live, game-speed, player vs. player contact in pads involving any number of players.

Additionally, during the first week of practice, gear is slowly added for players to adjust to the equipment.   Only helmets are allowed the first two days, then shoulder pads can be added on the third and fourth days with full pads not worn until the fifth day of practice.

After the first game of the season, teams can do no more than two collision practice days in any week.

Other changes include limiting single practices to no more than three hours.   Multiple practice sessions can last no longer than five hours.

For more details on the changes, you can read the MHSAA's entire revised practice policy.

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