MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Despite the broiling heat, high school football teams across Alabama will start fall practice in a week.
Before players set foot on the field, sports officials are taking some new precautions to keep players safe--and hopefully prevent long term health problems for the athletes.
The hard hits during football games can be cause for concern, especially when it comes to sports related concussions. The Centers for Disease Control estimate about 300,000 cases spring up each year in the US.
"If you suspect a possible concussion, then you have to take those precautions to safeguard a child," said Marbury High School head coach James Strickland.
Now, high schools are taking a page from the NFL's playbook, tightening the rules surrounding concussions and how to deal with the injuries on the field.
The Alabama High School Athletic Association now requires each football coach to take a concussion course online, earning certification and knowledge--should a player show symptoms of trauma.
"...to help them find and recognize the signs of a concussion, prior to them coaching any of our student-athletes," explained AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese.
Now, if a player does get a concussion, a medical doctor is the only person allowed to clear them to play again. No longer can a trainer or other medical personnel make the call.
"In years passed, there was really no jurisdiction, as in professional and collegiate sports, there was no jurisdiction," Savarese said.
Players welcome the new rules.
"Some people, you know, they say they're everything or capable of doing everything, but it's always good to make sure you're checked out by a medical doctor and make sure everything's safe," said Brandt Bishop, center for Montgomery Academy.
Coaches welcome the season.
"It's still a contact sport, and it's still a hard game, but we do want to safeguard the athlete. You know, try to do our best to make sure we're not putting him in any further danger,"Strickland said.
The changes come after the National Federation of State High School Associations put an identical policy into play, set to curb long term brain damage for athletes.
The adjustments, coaches say, shouldn't cause a problem. Official practice begins Monday, August 2nd.
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