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(Rick Hickman/American Press)

McNeese already using NCAA's new practice guidelines

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 08, 2014 10:20 AM

By Alex Hickey / American Press

Hoping to cut down on concussions — and, quite likely, the lawsuits that are starting to crop up in regards to that issue — the NCAA released a new set of football practice guidelines Monday seeking to limit the number of full-contact practices conducted by member institutions.

The guidelines are intended to be more carrot than whip — they weren’t passed via legislation, so football programs are being encouraged to follow them rather than penalized if they don’t.

According to the NCAA, the guidelines were developed through consultation with the College Athletic Trainers’ Society, “prominent medical organizations,” college football coaches, administrators and conference commissioners.

The suggestions:

l Four live-contact practices per week in preseason training camp, with a maximum of 12. On days with two practices, only one should be live-contact. Only three practices should be full scrimmages.

l No more than two live-contact practices per week during the season.

l Of the 15 spring practices, only eight should be live-contact, including three scrimmages. Live contact may not occur on consecutive days.

McNeese State coach Matt Viator said his program won’t have to make any tweaks to meet the suggested guidelines.

“None of this is going to affect us,” Viator said. “We’re basically already doing that in the spring. During the season, Tuesday and Wednesday we have some live things, but there’s no way half the practice is — probably 30 to 40 percent, and as the season goes on we do less and less.

“Preseason, we only have two scrimmages, so that’s not an issue.”

According to the NCAA’s top doctor, McNeese’s approach seems to be fairly common.

“When we were working with the coaches and talking to them about this, it was amazing to see how many already were self-regulating because they realize that when the kids are beat up, they just aren’t as ready to perform as well,” Dr. Brian Hainline, chief medical officer for the NCAA, told The Associated Press. “And some of them have a very illuminated view of this because they also understand that when kids are beat up, they’re at a greater risk of injury.”

For teams at the Football Championship Subdivision level that have less roster space than Bowl Subdivision counterparts, taking things down a notch is a matter of survival.

“It’s not only for the safety issue, but at our level, the numbers are an issue too,” Viator said. “When we’re live, we’re live. But we’re not live every day.”

Viator said his program is pro-active about the concussion issue, which has evolved from the days of running back onto the field after “getting your bell rung” to a matter that’s taken much more seriously in the present.

“The main thing that’s changed for better is you err on the side of caution,” Viator said. “I think back in years past, it was more ‘Let’s see what you can do.’ If there’s any question now, they’re immediately out. That’s what’s changed in the game.”

Viator said the training and medical staff have the final say on whether a player can return to a game.

“We’re fortunate that our training staff is very knowledgeable,” Viator said. “Every player has a comprehensive concussion test at the start of the year. Dr. Errol Wilder as good as we get in the area (with concussions). He’s in constant contact with us. If there’s any kid in question, Dr. Wilder sees them. He has a very strict protocol. It’s been beneficial to us.”

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