New Pac 12 safety plan calls for less contact in practice


Photo: USA Today Sports

Safety in football has become a growing topic of concern and interest over the recent years, both at the collegiate and professional level and beyond. With so many players suffering from concussions and other injuries and the effects of smash mouth football now becoming more visible through players well beyond their playing days, the time to find new ways to protect the players is now. Fortunately there are a lot of smart people doing research and taking action to implement new equipment and rules to provide for a safer game for players to compete, although some of the decisions made are sure to continue to stimulate debate and discussion about the state of the sport.

Today the Pac 12 revealed some new ideas that will be implemented throughout the conference with the safety of the players in focus. The Pac 12 are introducing a "Student-Athlete Health and Well-Being Initiative" this upcoming year, which is highlighted by policy that will limit the amount of contact allowed in practices. According to a statement released by the Pac 12, the formal details of the policy will be reviewed and released during the conference's media day on July 26.

Per the Pac 12 release;

Going forward, the Pac-12 will look at guidelines around contact in practice to ensure that student-athlete well-being is being closely monitored, both in the amount of contact and in providing our student-athletes and coaches with ample opportunity to teach and learn the correct tackling methods during the spring and preseason.

One part of this that will have to be figured out by late July is just how this will be monitored on a school-by-school basis. Will there be regular reports that need to be filled out or will each school's program be charged with monitoring and enforcing these policies on their own? But that strays away from the smaller issue of this all. This move is just a part of the overall plan by the Pac 12 to ensure players are being taken care of and protected from injuries.

“The health and well-being of our more than 7,000 student-athletes competing within the Pac-12 each year is of paramount importance,” said Pac-12 CEO Group Chair Ed Ray in the Pac 12 statement. “This new initiative is a great step towards taking advantage of the full resources of our research institutions for the benefit of our student-athletes.”

“Pac-12 institutions house the leading medical trainers, doctors, and scientists working to enhance student-athlete health and well being,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. “Our athletic departments and coaches have been very progressive in this area and are deeply committed to advancing these efforts,” he added. “This initiative seizes on our opportunity to embrace, support, and coordinate all these efforts and build a framework to advance them with new resources, expertise and funding.”

In addition to the reduction in practice contact, according to the release, the Pac 12 will form a committee of doctors and researchers from around the conference's membership and commit a total of $3.5 million toward research grants throughout the Pac 12 directed for improving student-health. The conference will also take on a leadership role in an annual Student-Athlete Health Conference. A continued emphasis on head trauma will remain a high priority for the conference as well.

Head trauma has certainly been one of the top issues for football players, and conferences are taking notice. Proposed rule changes continue to lessen the frequency or severity of potential blows to the head and the Big Ten and Ivy League have teamed up previously to work on research regarding head injuries. Now the Pac 12 is aiming to take a more pivotal role in the movement for better player safety.

But what will this mean, over time, in terms of level of play on game day? There is an argument to suggest players may be less prepared for contact when taking the field, especially against non-conference competition that may have more contact in practices, and there is another that might suggest bodies may be put at more risk of injury in a game if not taking on as much contact during practice. I honestly do not know for sure, one way or the other, but if players are not going to be paid for their performance on the field then the least the schools and conferences can do is ensure they do not have to pay with their physical health in practices.

What do you think about this news, or are you waiting to see what details the Pac 12 comes out with at their media day regarding this new policy? Let us know with a comment.

Quotes provided by the Pac 12.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow him on TwitterGoogle+ and Facebook.

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Kevin McGuire

About Kevin McGuire

Contributor to NBCSports.com's College Football Talk, Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Host of the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher Radio and iHeart Radio. FWAA member and Philadelphia-area resident.

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