The Michigan High School Athletic Association can credit itself with a major win since it implemented a rule two years ago to limit full contact practice to no more than two days a week in football.
In a study released in the July issue of the Journal of Athletic Training, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s scientific publication, the results show head impacts declined by 42 percent since the rule was put in place.
So, how did the study come reach its conclusions?
“The paper was based on a study that was a 3-year study, but we had the data locked in one year before the rule change and the year following the rule change, so 2 years of data,” said Steven Broglio, PHD, ATC and lead author and director of the NeuroTrauma Research Lab in the School of Kinesiology at the University of Michigan, who was the lead author on the paper. “A component of the study was designed to tract head impact exposure in high school football athletes so we had a sensor system that allows us to tract the location of the magnitude of every impact that an athlete takes while they are on the field, so we had data from the year before the rule change and then the same football team (Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard), same coaching staff from the year after.
“We were able to compare basically how many hits to the head and how severe those hits were to the athlete in the two seasons, the year before and after. Overall, we saw about a 42-percent decline in head impact exposure. It varies a little bit by position, the linemen obviously get the biggest benefit because they get beat up quite a bit, do a lot of hitting during practice and with the rule change it goes down. Quarterbacks don’t get much of a change because they get protected during practice and most of their hits come in games.”
The study was costly with sensor systems being placed into the helmets to allow for the data, tallying the number of impacts and severity of them.
“The actual sensor itself that goes into the helmet is about $1,200 apiece and then the sideline box, the computer and the attendant and all that stuff is probably another $25,000,” Broglio said. “It’s definitely a research instrument, not something your average high school is going to be able to afford.”
Canton coach Tim Baechler noticed fewer concussions since the rule change.
“I feel there’s been significant improvement,” Baechler said. “Most of our concussions happened before in the first week of the season so that (new rule change) has made things better. However, I felt we weren’t as good blocking and tackling as we were in past years at the start of the season and other coaches noticed that as well with their teams.”
Baechler said Canton hits hard with full contact practices during the week on Tuesday and Wednesdays and have lighter days on Monday and Thursdays leading up to game day.