The prevailing thinking in many circles is that fewer full-contact practices in football will mean fewer concussions.
A group of former and current players is taking that pitch to the high school level, asking states to ban full-contact practices during the offseason.
Led by former New Orleans Saints offensive lineman Kyle Turley, retired New England Patriots fullback Kevin Turner and current Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the group spoke in New Orleans on Friday about the benefits of limiting such practices in high school football, according to the Boston Herald.
Massachusetts is one of 19 states that explicitly ban such practices, but they aren’t satisfied that so many states allow the physicality to continue out of season. Texas, for instance, allows 30 days of contact practices in the spring. The players who have excelled on the highest level are firm believers that full-contact practices aren’t always the best teaching tools, and young players should learn the schematics of the game before donning pads.
“What coaches, I believe, should really be doing that would help this entire issue is teaching the kids how to practice without pads,” said Turner, who now suffers from ALS and needs assistance with daily activities.
USA Today reported that the push is part of the Sports Legacy Institute, a non-profit group led by filmmaker Chris Nowinski. He said 29 state high school sports associations, including Florida and Texas, allow full-contact practice in football during spring and summer months.
“That’s stands in stark contrast to what we understand about the developing brain being more vulnerable than the adult brain,” Nowinski said. “And in a world where the NFL players are better protected than the teenagers, we have a problem and we should correct it.”
The NFL does not permit full contact during the offseason. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the league also allows just 14 full-contact practices during the regular season. The Sports Legacy Institute also wants full-contact practices in high schools limited to one or fewer per week during the season.
“The only reason this isn’t in place in high school is because high school athletes don’t have an opportunity to negotiate. They don’t have anyone in their corner with any power,” said Hasselbeck, who participated in the news conference.
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor