The Ivy League announced on Wednesday that it will greatly reduce the number of full-contact practices its football teams can hold, in an effort to reduce concussions and other head injuries among its student-athletes. The rule change will be implemented this fall, and also includes guidelines for teaching proper tackling technique, the signs of a concussion, and the potential ramifications of brain trauma.
Teams will now be allowed only two full-contact practices a week, three less than the NCAA allows, the Ivy League said in a press release. The league will also review contact rules governing men’s and women’s hockey, lacrosse and soccer in an effort to determine whether there are ways to reduce head injuries in those sports, the New York Times reported.
“Because of the seriousness of the potential consequences, the presidents [of the Ivy League universities] determined the league needed to take proactive steps in protecting the welfare of our student-athletes,” Robin Harris, the executive director of the Ivy League, said in the press release.
The league’s decision follows recent research that suggests that the most practical way of limiting head injuries among football players might be limiting contact in practices, the Times reported.
During practices that are not full-contact, no player may be taken to the ground, according to the press release. In addition, the number of no-contact practices in the spring will increase from three to four. The number of overall practices without contact will now be 42 percent below the NCAA maximum.
The new rules are unprecendented and likely the strictest in the country about limiting head-to-head contact, according to ESPN.
“If we want young people to continue to fall in love with this great sport, we have to protect the athletes,” Harvard head coach Tim Murphy told the Times.
Eight penalties were assessed for helmet-to-helmet hits or for blows to the head in Ivy League games last year, in addition to four flags for hits on a defenseless player, the Times reported.