New high school football rules aim to protect players from injury

New high school football rules aim to protect players from injury

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Each season the National Federation of State High Schools Association works to improve the safety of all sports. The football changes made this year are the biggest in years.

While West Florence Head Coach Trey Woodberry has a lot to teach his players, he has a lot to learn himself. Assistant Commissioner for the South Carolina High School League Charlie Wentzky is working to make sure teams and their coaches know the rules.

"We go back through all of our requirements, our new requirements, our old requirements. Anything that we think is a high point for their sport or for athletics in general so that they're aware of what's going on and reminding them of the rules that we have," said Charlie Wentzky.

Coaches aren't the only ones attending these meetings, officials are as well.

"The key is that we want to go over our rules the same way with our officials as we do with our coaches so everybody's on the same page heading to the field on Friday night," said Wentzky.

While some of the rules this year are, as Wentzky puts them, "fluff rules," the bigger changes focus on limiting potential injury risk.

"The new defenseless player definition, blindside block definition, I apologize. And pop-up kick," Wentzky said.

"The opponent is not going to see this (blindside) block coming, whether it's the defensive team or the offensive team. If you can think in your mind and visualize, the one that's going to come to the mind, the most common would be the hit of the week."

And a pop up kick?

"What you're looking for is that one that hits and goes straight up and never returns and that's a safety issue because you're trying to protect that, our team player, because he has no fair catch protection anymore once that ball strikes the ground," Wentzky said.

A blindside block could cost the offending team 15 yards, a pop-up kick five. But both penalties could have larger effects.

"A lot of the potential injury depends on the speed, the angle of the injury, the force of the injury, obviously the location," said primary care physician Burt Banks, MD.

Anytime a player comes in to see Banks at Grand Strand Medical, there are a few things he's looking for in diagnosing a football-related injury.

"For particular joint injuries we look for joint stability to make sure there's no laxity of the ligament. To make sure the joints have full range of movement. For certain things head injuries a lot of that is based on symptoms and their ability to concentrate. The fact that their headaches have resolved," said Banks.

Coaches said they're in favor of the changes.

"All these rules are great. If it's going to save our sport and save our kids that's what we need to do. So you're not going to hear me complain about that at all," West Florence Head Coach Trey Woodberry said.

Coaches like Trey Woodberry at West Florence have been acceptive of the changes they just want to make sure they are enforced fairly. The game of football will remain fun to watch and play but it's time to make sure it is safer as well.

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