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On The Fence

Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 4/23/2014, 10:37 a.m.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) voted 170-87 to prohibit full pad football activities during summer football camps in an ...

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) voted 170-87 to prohibit full pad football activities during summer football camps in an effort to reduce player injuries and generally make the sport safer. Over the past several years, heat related injury has been a focal point of several discussions both in the public domain and in many cases in the judicial system in the form of lawsuits. There is no question that attention has sparked a national debate on the topic and has helped to form new guidelines within the sport to make what is typically known as a rough and tumble sport a bit safer for every participant.

According to IHSA executive director Marty Hickman, “We believe this revision minimizes risk to football student-athletes, while allowing for the teaching of appropriate fundamentals,” said Hickman. “This is another important step in making high school football as safe as possible, while putting all of our schools on an even playing field regarding football activities during the summer.”

The sport of football is without question my favorite sport to cover as a sports writer and measures like this I believe will actually contribute to the longevity of the sport. Over the many years of reporting, coaching and playing the sport, I have personally seen how heat can affect the body in a negative way. When you consider humidity levels and air temperatures then factor in the padding, helmet and physical exertion, the combination has been proven to be a deadly one.

It is extremely difficult for a player to know when to back off and take a break during summer practices in which they are trying to make an impression on the coaching staff and earn a starting spot when the season starts. In addition to impressing coaches, as a player, it was always important to me not to show weakness amongst my peers and I was the type that would push through the pain just to prove I could do it. That attitude is exactly what rules like the one announced by the IHSA are designed to deter.

With the football season roughly eight weeks away, the schools should have ample time to adjust their summer session plans and because every member school must comply, the playing field will be leveled. In the end, the summer practice sessions are meant to get players into shape both mentally and physically. The lack of contact and pads during them will hardly make a significant difference in those preparations and I am quite certain reduce injury meaning that there could actually be more players ready for the season in late August as a result.