Tackling Head Injuries

Concussions reduced after Wisconsin tackle ban


New evidence suggests that high school football may be getting a little safer — at least in one state.

A new study from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (UW) found that limiting the amount of full-contact tackling allowed during high school football practices may greatly reduce the number of concussions the players will sustain in a given season.

Full-contact tackling was defined as drills or practice scenarios when full tackles are made at a competitive pace and players are taken to the ground.

"This study confirms what athletic trainers who work with high school football programs have long believed regarding the association of full contact drills or practices and the likelihood a player will sustain a concussion," said lead study author Timothy A. McGuine, PhD, ATC, a senior scientist at UW, in a press release. "This is probably also true for other football injuries such as sprains, fractures and dislocations."

The rule — which first went into effect during the 2014 season in Wisconsin — prohibits full-contact tackling during the first week of practice, and limits it to 75 minutes per week during week 2 and 60 minutes per week during the rest of the season.

For this study, Dr. McGuine and team used data from the Wisconsin Interscholastic Sports Injury Research Network to look at more than 16,000 high-school athletes from 103 schools across Wisconsin.

The recent restrictions were linked to a 50 percent drop in concussion rates among players in the 2014 season when compared to the two seasons prior to the rule change.

According to Dr. McGuine and colleagues, this finding suggest that limiting full-contact tackling in high school football practice is a no-brainer. "Educating high school coaches to limit the amount of full contact would be an effective and economical way to help protect students from head injuries," Dr. McGuine said.

This study is scheduled to be presented Oct. 24 at the 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Information on funding sources and conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.