Much of preseason football clinics and discussions have focused on players using their heads.
Not thinking but contact.
Dealing with and preventing concussions have been on the agenda of about every football governing body, from NFL to youth league.
The rules are clear, and football coaches are told they will be strictly enforced. Player safety is the obvious concern and that’s a good thing.
But the rules are also strict to mitigate the threat of governmental legislation and lawsuits.
Some of the on-field rules have been widely discussed.
Targeting the head by a defender will result in an an automatic ejection.
If a player loses a helmet during a play, he has to stop and cease to participate in the play or it’s a 15-yard penalty against his team.
“The days in which tough guys ran around making tackles after their helmets have gone off are over,” said Conway coach Clint Ashcraft.
Less known, but no less strict, is the protocol coaches and athletic trainers must follow if a player has concussion-like symptons.
If the player even has concussion symptoms — even though he has not been technically diagnosed with a concussion — he has to sit out from practice or play.
There is then a five-day protocol the player, coaches and athletic staff must follow to clear a player with those symptoms to take the field again. It’s a step-by-step process of cognitive and physical tests.
One challenging aspect is Saturday and Sunday do not count as days in the protocol. For example, if a player experiences concussion-like symptoms, which could be a basic headache, after a Friday game, the process of clearing him to play will not begin until Monday.
“A player will miss a week of practice if he has any symptoms at all,” said Ashcraft.
That leads to a major concern of coaches and athletic trainers — players hiding or not revealing symptoms.
“Every team has some tough guys who will want to play through any injury and get back on the field,” Ashcraft said. “Those guys think, ‘it’s not big deal; it’s just a little headache. I can play with a headache.’ Then, they start figuring that if they admit to any symptoms, they may not be able to play the next Friday. They want to play and they may start to hide things from you. It’s a tough rule, but it’s safety-first for the kids.”
During a variety of workshops, clinics and in-service sessions, coaches have been instructed on how to spot players and identify concussion-like symptoms.
Still, this hide-and-go-seek experience among players, coaches and athletic trainers can become as tedious as any game plan.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @dmaclcd.