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Blog: How the NCAA guidelines on contact practices could look at Georgia

No more than two live contact practices a week.

That’s the “guideline” the NCAA recommended Monday for college football teams during the regular season. That came after six months of work that the NCAA and the College Athletic Trainers’ Society did with medical organizations, coaches, administrators and commissioners.

That practice policy has been in place as a rule in the Ivy League since 2011 and was adopted by the Pac-12 last season.

Georgia director of sports medicine Ron Courson was on an NCAA safety committee that examined the issue of limiting practice contact.

“The concussions I think is the thing that really drove this,” Courson said in an interview in May.

Courson said there isn’t any data yet to show the Ivy League and Pac-12 restrictions lessened those.

“Common sense would seem to think you would have a decrease, but where do you draw the line?” Courson said. “That’s the debate in coaching circles. For example if you say, we’re only going to do contact once a week, that might translate better in the NFL than in college because in the NFL you have guys that are very experienced and know how to hit. In college, maybe you bring in an 18-year old freshman and they need to have good fundamental work. If you don’t get that in practice, are they more prone to get hurt in a game because they’re going out there and they don’t know how to practice?”

Courson wondered what the optimal number of live contact practice days would be.

The NCAA is defining live contact practices as “any practice that involves live tackling to the ground and/or full-speed blocking. Live contact practice may occur in full-pad or half-pad (also as “shell,” in which the player wears shoulder pads and shorts, with or without thigh pads). Live contact does not include: (1): “thud sessions, or (2) drills that involve “wrapping up,” in these scenarios players are not taken to the ground and contact is not aggressive in nature. Live contact practices are to be conducted in a manner consistent with existing rules that prohibit targeting to the head or neck area with the helmet, forearm, elbow or should or the initiation of contact with the helmet.”

The NCAA guidelines from its website on practice guidelines are as follows:

Preseason: For days when schools schedule a two-a-day practice, live contact practices are only allowed in one practice. A maximum four live contact practices may occur in a given week, and a maximum of 12 total may occur in the preseason. Only three practices (scrimmages) would allow for live contact in greater than 50 percent of the practice schedule.

In-season, postseason and bowl season: There may be no more than two live contact practices per week.

Spring practice: Of the 15 allowable sessions that may occur during the spring practice season, eight practices may involve live contact; three of these live contact practices may include greater than 50 percent live contact (scrimmages). Live contact practices are limited to two in a given week and may not occur on consecutive days.

The impact at Georgia if this was enacted as a rule could come in preparation for a game like Georgia Tech with its triple option offense or against Georgia Southern in 2015.

“If you play an opponent that does a lot of cut blocking, you may want to do more pad work that week,” Courson said.

Georgia also recently has practiced full contact on one practice day just for players redshirting and scout teamers. That would seem to count against the total.

Courson had said he expected a “best practices” for contact practices to be put in place before rules were enacted legislatively. That’s what has happened.

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by Marc Weiszer

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