New Rules Limit Contact in Fall Prep Sports

OCEAN CITY- With fall high school sports teams in the area hitting the fields over the last week or so in preparation for the upcoming season, the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) last week issued a series of recommendations to limit contact in certain “collision” sports such as football to reduce concussions for student-athletes.
Following a recent trend in student-athlete safety, the MDSE issued recommendations on practice limitations to varying degrees for all sports, particularly those referred to as collision sports. Football is the only fall sport defined as a collision sport, while boys’ lacrosse is also defined as a collision sport. Other fall sports, including boys’ and girls’ soccer, are considered contact sports under the guidelines, while other sports are listed as limited contact or non-contact.
The new recommendations limit the number of contact practices in collision sports including football. In football, no live hitting is allowed until the sixth day of practice. During the season, teams should limit live hitting drills and live game simulations to two practices per week. In boys’ lacrosse, after the first play date, schools should be limited to a maximum of one full-contact practice per day. In addition, there should be no live checking in practice on the day before a game.
Several other high school sports are listed as “contact” sports and have different sets of recommendations than those of the collision sports. For example, in the fall, soccer and field hockey are listed as a contact sports and the list of winter contact sports includes basketball and wrestling.
Contact sports are defined as activities during which athletes routinely make contact with each other or inanimate objects, but typically with less force than in collision sports. In those sports, coaches are advised to limit contact during practice and instruct athletes on proper techniques to avoid head injuries and concussions.
The new recommendations were prompted by regulations adopted last spring by the MDSE. The MDSE is also recommending improved instruction by coaches in collision and contact sports. The recommendations were developed by the MDSE Concussion Implementation Advisory Panel, a group of leading medical professionals and athletic officials from all over the state.
“Student safety is our paramount concern and our desire is to keep our athletes on the field and in the classroom,” said State Schools Superintendent Lillian Lowery. “These recommendations follow those put in place by leading college and university athletic organizations and we believe they will work well in Maryland schools.”