Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file
Fort Lewis College’s football team reported to camp Aug. 7 facing new practice rules.
The NCAA approved measures to eliminate traditional two-a-days, which consisted of two contact practices in one day. Teams can still meet more than once per day, but practices must be separated by three hours and one can be no more than a walkthrough, with no pads or contact. That forced coaches around the country to adjust as the sport continues to look for ways to improve player safety.
“So with us not doing two-a-days, we have to do a great job getting mentally prepared because we won’t have the amount of reps on the field,” said FLC interim head coach Joe Morris. “I think in terms of staying healthy, it’s a big help. We’ve lost guys during two-a-days in the past. The rule change helps us make sure we take care of our guys.”
After 10 days of practice, Morris said the team hasn’t suffered any major injuries to players expected to see considerable playing time in 2017. The team is lifting weights in the afternoon and going through meetings and walkthroughs after morning practices with pads.
“The guys are working their tails off,” Morris said. “Camp is still a grind at the end of the day, whether you’re wearing the pads or not.”
NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline told The Associated Press that August is the peak for catastrophic injuries such as cardiac arrest and heatstroke. The NCAA Sport Science Institute stated that 58 percent of football practice concussions occur during the preseason. Hainline also said two-a-day practices were more common in Division II than in Division I programs that had already largely done away with two-a-days.
“There was just something about that month really stood out,” Hainline said. “We couldn’t say with statistical certainty if this was because of the two-a-days, but there was enough consensus in the room and enough preliminary data that it looked like it was because of the two-a-days.”
Many high school activities associations also have implemented rules regarding two-a-days. Durango High School lifts weights in the mornings and runs practices in the afternoons during fall camp.
The Colorado High School Activities Association has recommendations regarding football practices. A minimum of two hours should separate practices held on the same day, and a second practice should only be a walkthrough with no protective gear, with the exception of a helmet. A second practice also should not exceed one hour. CHSAA suggests no practice exceed two hours and a total of three hours of practice in any given day. That does not include water breaks.
CHSAA also recommends only three contact practices of 90 minutes per week leading up to the season opener, and only two contact practices of 75 minutes per week during the season.
The first day of high school practice was Aug. 14, but teams were not allowed a full-contact practice until Aug. 17.
The New Mexico Activities Association has no guidelines for two-a-day practices, but full contact is limited to 30 minutes per player a day leading up to the season opener and 120 minutes per player a week once the season has begun.
The hope is to limit player injuries as much as possible.
“Numbers are down across the board,” Morris said. “From youth football to high schools and colleges, numbers are down. Concussions are a big deal, and people are getting on the same page across the country.”