While several conferences spent their spring meetings talking about conference schedules and membership, the Pac-12 spent a large portion of its meetings talking about the safety of its athletes.
The Pac-12’s conclusion? The conference needs to do more to protect student-athletes from injuries, including head trauma, which is why it is enacting a rule that would limit contact in football practices and it is forming a head trauma task force with several leading doctors at their member schools.
“Pac-12 institutions house the leading medical trainers, doctors, and scientists working to enhance student-athlete health and well being,” Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “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.”
Limiting contact in football practices could be tricky especially since football is a contact sport. The Pac-12 won’t release the terms of the limited contact until July 26, but it’s guaranteed that it will be scrutinized by many conferences and fans.
How does the Pac-12 limit contact in practices and still maintain a competitive edge over schools not within their conference?
I guess there are two schools of thought here:
1. Limiting contact throughout the week will make players fresher and healthier by the end of the week, giving them a competitive edge over programs that have gone through intense practices during game week.
2. Pac-12 teams won’t be used to the physicality and it might be difficult to adjust during games and could result in more injuries.
Here the thing: Most college football programs have full-padded practices perhaps two or three times a week and that number is usually one or two as the year treks on. It’s important for teams to create a physical base early and then taper off as the season continues and bodies wear down.
There’s no question that football has come under great scrutiny because of its aggressiveness and because of how, until recently, people seemed to care very little about the long-term effects. We’ve seen, especially from the NFL, that repeated concussions can have a devastating effect on the human brain and can sometimes provoke depression, aggression and even suicide.
Universities have put several new plans to treat concussions in place over the years and helmet companies have been trying to come up with ways to minimize the impact from a head-on collision. Of course, the NCAA has taken steps to safeguard players by penalizing, ejecting and even suspending players who target their opponents’ heads.
So, is the Pac-12 ahead of its time? Perhaps.
There will be an old guard that will claim that the Pac-12 is softening football and maybe it is. But if it keeps players safe and helps them live a much more productive life after the game, then maybe it’s worth a look in all college football leagues.
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