It won't take effect until the 2015 football season, but California lawmakers are taking a stand on head injuries and practice.
On Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would limit full-contact practices to two 90-minute sessions per week during the season and prohibits any of it during the offseason.
Full-contact practices can be held daily during the season now in the Golden State. The law, which also forces high school teams to bench players for at least a week after suffering concussion-type symptoms, doesn't take effect until Jan. 1.
Texas already has such a sanction in place, limiting full-contact practice to once a week.
Studies in the last two years have revealed that about one-third of high school players said they endured concussion-like symptoms but didn't seek treatment. A 2013 study by the Institute of Medicine found that high school players sustained concussions at double the rate of college players.
"This is about protecting kids, as well as parents' peace of mind," Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, told the San Francisco Chronicle
Coaches are becoming increasingly aware of the problem, Acalanes (Lafayette, Calif.)
coach Mike Ivankovich said. "We hold these kids' futures, and that is a grave responsibility. Reasonable limitations like this are a good thing."
But he along with others believe teaching the right techniques are key.
"Unless you practice, you're not going to know how to protect your head and neck, how to fall properly, or how to tackle someone else safely," Salesian (Richmond, Calif.)
coach Chad Nightingale told the Chronicle.
For the last two years, USA Football's "Heads Up Football" program
has been at the forefront to teach proper techniques in tackling. It's gained massive support from the highest (NFL) and most grassroots (youth football) levels.
Nearly 3,000 youth football organizations (more than 25 percent of leagues in the country) are already registered in the "Heads Up" program, which establishes standards, educates adults and supplies coaching certificates on all facets of safety. It has also started rolling out programs at the high school level and aims to be a part of every school by the end of 2014.
"I think what USA Football is doing with its Heads Up Football program is the most important thing right now in teaching the game of football," Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano said. "It's a great game, and it teaches you so much, but we must do all we can to help protect the participants."
Demonstrations by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association on proper tackling were given Sunday at the USA Football/MaxPreps High School Football Media Day
hosted by the Seattle Seahawks.
Dr. Gerald A. Gioia, a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. and advisory member on the "Heads Up Football" program said last season
that strengthening the neck and learning to tackle correctly are two of the most vital ways head injuries can be avoided.
More critical than tackling techniques or neck muscles are attitudes concerning head injuries, concussions and penalties.
"I'm blown away when I see angry fans and parents at referees for making calls on dangerous hits," Gioia said. "We can't have it both ways here. If we're going to err, we have to err on the side of a player's safety."
And the new measure at all levels to remove possibly concussed players from the field is another major plus. Now it's a matter of getting teenage boys on board to be more safety-driven and less daring. It's a cultural change that will take time, Gioia said.
And perhaps more laws like the one passed in California will help.