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  • Terry O'Neil

New Research: Practice Concussions Decline


New scientific research has confirmed a significant decline in high school football practice-field concussions.

The study, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, tracked 100 nationally representative high school programs in the 2013 through 2017 seasons.  It found 39.7% of concussions in practice, 60.3% in games.

By comparison, research published in 2015 by the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention found 58% of concussions in practice, 42% in games.

"This is very gratifying," said Practice Like Pros founder Terry O'Neil.  "We've known anecdotally that practice injuries are decreasing, but this research is scientific validation.  Practice concussions dropped 19% during the five seasons studied.  We're a long distance from the NFL standard, but we're making progress."

State coaches' associations and governing bodies of high school athletics in New Jersey and Michigan led the movement in 2019 by reducing to historically low levels of practice contact.  Practice Like Pros' work elsewhere in the country indicates that several states will follow suit in the 2020 off-season.  

The new research also calculated the incidence of high school football concussion, which is best described in this example:


  • Assume a program of 110 players -- 60 varsity, 25 jayvee, 25 freshmen.

  • Assume a 12-game schedule for the varsity, eight games each for jayvees and freshmen.

  • Assume four days of practice per week in-season, 18 practices/scrimmages in pre-season, 18 practices/scrimmages in spring.

  • This theoretical program will average 10 concussions per year -- six in games, four in practice.

The research project was led by investigators from the University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill, University of Colorado/Denver, Vanderbilt University and the Steadman Philippon Research Institute.  They used data provided by the High School RIO (Reporting Information Online) service, devised and operated by Dr. Dawn Comstock, PhD, of the Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO.

"Big thanks to Dawn Comstock and her team," said O'Neil.  "They are the gold standard in high school injury data collection."

To read the research report, click here.


Benefits Found in Won/Loss Record, Too

Reduced practice contact promotes health and safety, but benefits show up in the won/loss column, too.  Here's a current-season update of four programs that have eliminated full contact in regular-season practice:


  • Ramapo (NJ) High is 7-0.  The team is on a 20-game winning streak, stretching back to last year when it posted New Jersey's first-ever 13-0 record.  For more on Ramapo, click here.

  • American Heritage of Plantation, FL, is 7-1, gunning for its fifth state title in seven years in Florida Class 5A.  For more on American Heritage, click here.

  • Miami (FL) Palmetto is 7-1, headed for its fourth straight playoff appearance in Class 8A, top classification of Florida high school football.

  • Dartmouth is 5-0, destined for a showdown with Princeton November 9 in Yankee Stadium to decide the Ivy League.  The only team in college football to ban full-contact practice at all times of the football calendar, Dartmouth is 46-12 in its last 58 games.



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