A University of Wisconsin-Madison study examined sports-related concussion rates among Wisconsin high school football players after the state’s interscholastic athletic association limited the amount and duration of full-contact activities during team practices.
The rule, which first went into effect for the 2014 season, prohibits full contact during the first week of practice, limits full contact to 75 minutes per week during week 2, and caps it at 60 minutes thereafter.
Full contact is defined as drills or game situations when full tackles are made at a competitive pace and players are taken to the ground.
Findings show that the rate of sports-related concussions sustained during high school football practice was more than twice as high in the two seasons before the rule change as compared to the 2014 season, said Tim McGuine, senior scientist in the department of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
The study was presented October 24 at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in Washington, D.C.
“This study confirms what athletic trainers in high-school football have long believed about the association of full-contact drills or practices and the likelihood of concussion,” said McGuine. “This is probably also true for other football injuries such as sprains, fractures and dislocations.”
The study used data from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Sports Injury Research Network, which has recruited and enrolled more than 16,000 adolescent athletes from 103 high schools and sport venues across Wisconsin. They serve as subjects for cross-sectional, cohort and randomized control trials.
The study’s findings suggest that limiting full-contact high school football practices may be a no-brainer, McGuine said.
“Educating high school coaches about limiting the amount of full contact would be an effective and economical way to help protect students from head injuries,” he said.
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health