New law tackles gridiron concussion problem
El Dorado County varsity high school football head coaches have mixed feelings regarding a new state law Gov. Jerry Brown signed last week.
The bill, AD 2127, limits full-contact football practices to two hours a week during the season and prohibits summer full-contact camps, including those out-of-state. The bill’s aim is to reduce the number of concussions that have risen over the past decade. The law goes into place this upcoming season.
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, originated the bill, supported by the CIF the governing body for high school sports in the state and various medical groups. Nineteen other states have a similar law into place.
The approval didn’t surprise Oak Ridge High football coach Eric Cavaliere.
“We’ve known it’s been coming for a while,” Cavaliere said. “The main part of this isn’t going to affect us at all.”
Last season, Cavaliere and his assistant coaches actually kept track of time of having full-contact in most practices to 50 minutes each week.
“We are well under the 180 minutes that they have allowed,” Cavaliere said.
In recent years, Oak Ridge has competed at full-contact camps at the University of San Diego. The foundation of bonding as a team in preparing for the upcoming season is a plus, Cavaliere notes. But now the elimination of competing at those camps concern the Trojan coach.
“It’s a great experience for kids,” Cavaliere said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for us to teach all of these proper techniques and fundamentals with pads on. It’s 3 1/2 days, and now they (California lawmakers) are taking that away from us.”
Ponderosa High football coach Jason Tenner also agrees with limiting full-contact in practices.
“I understand we live in the era of player safety,” said Tenner, “but I feel as though most football coaches don’t go full (contact) every day. You can’t go 100 percent live everyday and expect to field a healthy team on Friday.”
Tenner also believes that safety concerns need to extend beyond football to the other sports as well.
“What I would have liked to have seen is a more thought-out approach where a protocol was set in place to address head injuries, not just in football but in other sports like soccer where the number of concussions are growing every year,” he said.
Tenner, a lineman in the NFL during the mid-late 1990s, has someone close to him as an example of a non-football concussion.
“My wife suffered more concussions playing soccer in high school then I did,” Tenner said. “The truth is if you are physically active in any way there is always a risk of injury.”
El Dorado High football coach/athletic director Joe Volek was “disappointed” in “the lack of dialogue” between California high school administrators and Sacramento.
“As athletic director and head coach, I was never asked how I felt,” Volek said. “Our CIF, Sac-Joaquin Section and Sierra Valley Conference leadership did not represent the thoughts and feelings of the ADs and head football coaches. I was raised to believe in a democracy we have public debated, discussions and our representatives made these discussions public. AB2127 was passed very quietly.”
In the last eight weeks, all five county varsity teams competed in what are now their last full-contact camps.