Florida's high schools are taking another significant step to protect the health of tens of thousands of football players. The Florida High School Athletics Association's plan to restrict full-contact practices will limit the potential for injuries on the field. Students, parents and coaches should all embrace the change as a way to make football a little bit safer.
Anything affecting high school football in Florida is a big deal, with more than 41,000 boys and girls in the state playing for their schools. Those students risk injury every Friday night during the season. Many also risk injury during the week, with fractures, sprains or bruises occurring during practices. Of course, of particular concern are concussions. A 2015 JAMA Pediatrics study found that football practices "were a major source of concussion" at the youth, high school and college levels. Repeat concussions can cause permanent brain damage in athletes, and limiting contact in practices can mitigate that risk, the study found. The athletic association is doing just that, cutting full-contact practice time to just 80 minutes per week, following guidelines developed by Practice Like Pros, a group advocating for safety in high school football.
This should not be a shock to the system, as many coaches already limit full-contact practices. While it's more difficult to make games safer, schools have a lot of control over practices. They ought to eliminate as much risk as possible while still teaching the techniques to successfully and safely play on Friday night. Protecting teenagers from injuries is in the best interest of us all.