From head coach Frank Beamer’s practice routines to football helmet studies in the school’s biomedical engineering department, Virginia Tech takes a serious approach to player safety in areas of contact and concussions.
We published a story Sunday about the new NCAA guidelines for hitting and player safety and concussion management, where we spoke to a handful of college coaches and athletic trainers throughout the state. Here’s the link:
A communication foul-up resulted in the omission of remarks from Tech’s Associate A.D. for Sports Medicine, Mike Goforth, one of the more thoughtful and forthcoming gents in the athletic training field.
“Coach Beamer has been on the front end of that for years,” Goforth said. “Ever since I got here, he’s been talking about, ‘What can we do to make our guys fresher for Saturday? What can we do to have them fresher later on in the year?’
“He’s spent a lot of time thinking about that and analyzing it. When we were able to capture all the data on it, it proved what he was doing was better. Now, you’re just seeing the NCAA follow suit on that. That’s trying to make themselves look good. I’m glad those rules are coming out, but that’s a little too late, to be honest with you.”
The NCAA collaborated with the American Football Coaches Association and various athletic trainers and medical groups to come up with a set of guidelines and recommendations for contact and concussions.
Among the recommendations: No more than two “live contact” practices per week during the season; limited “live contact” practices during preseason, and never in consecutive sessions during two-a-days; medical evaluation of players independent of the athletic department; transparent, publicly available concussion management plans for athletic departments.
“Live contact” is defined as full speed in full pads and tackle to the ground. Live contact differs from so-called “thud” practices, which consist of helmets and pads and contact, but players wrap up and do not tackle to the ground.
Goforth, who has been at Tech since 1998, said that the Hokies have two “live” practices per week during the season, usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays during a normal game-week. He said that the Hokies haven’t had full-on two-a-day practices in preseason in the past six years.
“You’ve got to get your body ready for (game days),” Goforth said, “and I think you can do that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I think that’s plenty.”
Tech’s biomedical engineering department began rating football helmets in 2011, in studies funded by the National Institutes of Health. Helmets are assigned from one to five stars for their quality and effectiveness in reducing the risk of concussions.
Concussions and head injuries have become a major issue in football, with lawsuits pending against both the NFL and NCAA.
The Ivy League and Pac-12 are the only two conferences to adopt legislation about the amount of “live” contact allowed in practice. Most teams already are in line with what the NCAA recommended, and what the Ivy and Pac-12 legislated.
“We charted our hits on people with our helmet study,” Goforth said. “There are some other schools in that study, like the Ivy League. Two years ago, (the Ivy League) came out with a policy that said you could only hit two days a week. You know what? We’d been hitting less than the Ivy League for 10 years, based on our data. That’s just us. I’m not speaking for the rest of the ACC. (Ivy League teams) have less players, less games and still had more hits than us.”
Most college coaches and administrators see the NCAA move as a trickle-down effect from the NFL, which faces a lawsuit brought by former players with a nine-figure settlement over the long-term effects of concussions.
NFL teams practice “live contact” drills one day per week during the season. “Live contact” drills are limited in preseason as well.
“What I think you’re going to see in (college) practices is more of an NFL model,” Goforth said. “When you get the newspaper in the summer, and they’re showing pictures of Redskins camp, those guys are wearing baseball caps and camouflage hats. They’re not hitting. They’re all glorified walk-throughs. People are going to see more and more of that on the college level, where you do drills without helmets.”Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun