Concussions in High School Football

Football at the NFL level has come under heavy scrutiny for its history of head injuries. The high school level is no different, and it has caused some changes in the way the game is played. Some rules and regulations have been adjusted to help prevent players from getting hurt. Beau Rugg is the Director of Officiating and Sports Management at the OHSAA and he says they have targeted reducing concussions for a while now with changes to the way a game is officiated. The main focus of these rules has been to eliminate the “big hit” from the game of football.

Beau Rugg, Director of Officiating and Sports Management for the OHSAA
Credit: OHSAA

“We’ve really redefined a lot of different rules and made some rules that help in the concussion realm. Obviously the defining of targeting and what that is and trying to take the launching upwards out of the game has been very successful at the NFL level, the NCAA level, and at the high school level. The other thing that the high school level was really first to look at was the blindside block, which is another one of those high collisions that makes you stop right away. That’s the shaking of the cranium is what causes a concussion.”

According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics from 2013-2018, there were a total of 4,183 concussions due to high school football. Only 60% of those injuries occurred during games whereas the other 40% were during practices. There were also 19 other sports documented and football accounts for about 40% of the concussions suffered by high school athletes.

Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
Graph: Cameron Miller

Rules and regulations can only cover gameday injuries, so naturally practices are the next thing to address since they account for a large amount of these injuries, just not the majority. Mark Geis is the Head Football Coach at Green High School and he gave some insight into how practices are ran now, and what steps are being taken to make sure student athletes are staying healthy.

Mark Geis, Head Football Coach for Green High School
Credit: Mark Geis

“We want to prevent any head injury by not putting them in positions to get one ion a drill that is not necessary. Putting kids in situations where they are going against like-competition, we don’t want to put a young freshman or maybe they cant handle it against an older kid, that’s number one, it’s training our coaches. Two we want to make sure we limit contact appropriately throughout the week. The OHSAA actually limited the amount of days you can have contact. We usually limit our contact to two days a week, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and we make sure we try not to have more than 20-30 minutes of contact with each kid. Because we don’t want to go over that 30 minutes for sure because the OHSAA has that stipulation.”

The way the game is being taught is also changing as Geis went on to say that they used to teach tackling in a way that would put the helmet into the ball the runner is holding. Now he says the defense is being taught to put their helmet on the ball carrier’s back hip so that the head is away from the point of contact as much as possible.

The changes that are being made are designed to have a positive impact on the game and keep athletes healthier than ever before. Only time will tell if these adjustments are actually making the game safer, but football fans, players, and coaches can remain hopeful that they will.