New OHSAA Concussion Regulations Aim to Prevent Harm

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The Ohio High School Athletic Association Board of Directors unanimously voted to approve new concussion regulations from the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion Summit Task Force last week.

These new regulations, which will take effect immediately when teams begin practice on August 1, limit full contact during practice and game time. It also reiterates many rules already in place to prevent and handle concussions, such as having an acclimatization period before hitting in practice.

However, some rules will be new to Ohio coaches this fall. For instance, OHSAA now restricts full contact between players to only one session during “two-a-day” practices.

Fairfield Union head coach Tim Bahen said most coaches have already informally followed these new rules for years before they were officially adopted by OHSAA.

“Any coach that’s worth his salt, if he sees a kid that’s ‘dinged’ — this could be ten years ago — then he’s pulling that kid out,” Bahen said. “And now with these new regulations, even if we wanted to, we couldn’t put our kids in danger until a trainer or doctor says ‘coach, you can put him back in.’ It doesn’t matter.”

Full contact in practice during the season will also be limited to 30 minutes per day and 60 minutes per week, and players can only be involved in full-contact practices two days out of a week.

Dr. Kayla Shinew, Ohio University’s Director of the Athletic Training Professional Program, agreed with the new contact restrictions as a way to prevent concussions, but mentioned the fluidity of these regulations as more information regarding concussions comes to light.

“What’s scary and kind of interesting is that the research is still out on a lot of it,” Shinew said. “The regulations and what we do know has grown exponentially in the past couple of years, and I think it is going to continue to do that.”

Shinew listed improper tackling technique and unsuitable equipment as factors increasing the chances of concussions, which are all addressed by the NFHS in the organization’s recommendations to the OHSAA. Dehydration, according to Shinew, could possibly lead to problems as well.

“(Coaches) tackle with new tackling techniques coming out every month,” Bahen said. “We try to keep up on that, and we try to reduce the risk as much as possible so kids don’t have to worry about concussions.”

The new regulations compliment the concussion protocol law passed by the Ohio State Congress in 2013, which allowed doctors and athletic trainers to have a say in a student-athlete’s ability to participate.

Tim Stried, Director of Information Services for OHSAA, believes these new regulations, while re-emphasizing many established rules, will contribute to OHSAA’s goal of reducing concussions.

“I think it’s a great indicator of how important this issue is in the state of Ohio,” Stried said. “I think that there are so many things that coaches have to know and be aware of these days, and player safety is at the top of that list. Concussions are at the top of that list.”