With temperatures in the mid-90s, high school football players take a much needed  hydration break during summer practice. During its recent meeting the Board of Directors of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) adopted a number of new concussion and heat-related illness rules to be enforced beginning 2012-2013 athletic season.

In an effort to safeguard the health of student-athletes, the Board of Directors of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) took action on a number of safety related topics last month, including new safety rules regarding concussions and heat-related illnesses.

“Coaches, administrators and policy makers have grown increasingly aware of the long-term risks posed by concussions and heat-related illnesses, and FHSAA will do its part to ensure that our student-athletes are protected as much as possible,” said FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing.

According to FHSAA spokesperson Corey Sobers, the Board adopted a new concussion and heat-related illness form to comply with the provisions of new legislation adopted to protect the athletes who participate in FHSAA-sanctioned activities. The form can be viewed on the FHSAA Website, along with a concussion action plan.

“This also provides information as to the symptoms and an explanation of when the student-athlete can return to sport activity,” Sobers said.

Sobers emphasized that the Board’s adaptation of the new safety guidelines means that the guidelines are no longer just a suggestion, but a rule.

“If not followed by the coaches or the sports officials on the field or the court, there are sanctions in place for violating them,” he said.

One of eight rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee, and subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors, is that in cases when the helmet comes completely off without it being directly attributable to a foul by the opponent, the player will have to leave the game for at least one down.

As reported by the FHSAA, the committee made this rule change after reviewing data from multiple states regarding the frequency of helmets coming off during live-ball play. It may serve as notice for schools to properly fit players with helmets to reduce these incidents.

As for the new heat-related policies designed to ensure that young athletes drink plenty of water and do not practice too many hours each week, the Board adopted the changes at its last meeting prior to the 2011-2012 school year.

The Board decided to limit weekly practice time to 18 hours, and to ensure that for every 30 minutes of practice, there must be a minimum five-minute rest and hydration break. It also requires unrestricted access to water for athletes at all times, meaning that coaches must give student-athletes access to water if requested.

For more information about the new safety rules, please visit www.fhsaa.org.

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