High School sports

State recommends limiting live-hitting drills to two practices per week

The Maryland State Department of Education released new recommendations Tuesday to further protect student-athletes from concussions, including limiting football live-hitting drills to two practices per week during the season.

Although not mandatory, the recommendations send a strong signal to coaches that state officials put a high priority on concussion safety. An MSDE task force began studying ways to cut down on concussions in football last year as the NFL limited live-hitting practices to 14 days during the 16-game regular season and the Ivy League cut them to twice a week.


While Maryland officials have focused on educating coaches, players and parents about the dangers of concussions, their only requirement has been that an athlete with concussion symptoms be removed from a game and not return to competition until cleared by a doctor or a certified athletic trainer.

Several counties, including Howard, already limit full-contact football practice to twice a week, and other coaches limit hitting, but this is the first time state officials have made such a recommendation, according to Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association executive director Ned Sparks.


"The recommendation is to curtail the potential for 50 percent of the hitting if you hit every single day," Sparks said. "Granted, coaches are smarter than that. The good ones don't [hit every day], but this puts it down as a strong recommendation. It also sends a message that this stuff is serious."

In addition, the MSDE Concussion Implementation Panel, comprised of medical professionals and athletics officials, recommended no live hitting until the sixth day of preseason practice — something already mandated by the state's heat acclimatization legislation — and no live hitting the day before a game.

Football wasn't the only sport noted in the recommendations. Ice hockey, which the MPSSAA does not sanction, and boys lacrosse were also designated by the panel as collision sports — the highest level of contact in high school sports.

Recommendations for boys lacrosse were to limit full-contact practice to once per day and to allow no live body checking the day before a game, although stick checking would be allowed.