The UIL Legislative Council, the rule making group that governs high school football and other sports, recently passed a recommendation that would limit the time that middle school and high school football teams can practice at full speed.
The rule, if approved, states that teams will only be able to practice at “game speed” for 90 minutes a week. The spirit behind the rule is to try to lower the number of full speed impacts, resulting in a lower incidence of injury to players. It certainly sounds logical but I would challenge that this, alone, is not the best idea.
In game situations, players default to what their muscles have been trained to do through repetitive practice. They use their training to anticipate and act, sometimes without even consciously thinking. If they are running at half speed the majority of the time, they will not be able to develop the reflexes and strength needed to be ready for an impact.
Football is a game of collisions and there are going to be injuries of all types when you collide. Coaches and players need to be able practice at full speed, learn how to prepare to be hit, and practice how to fall after a hit without thinking about it. If the recommendation becomes a rule, we also need a provision that more effectively enforces coaching approaches that teach how to impact a player without leading with the helmet.
The proper way to lower injuries is to teach players the right way to collide in practice, and only then will injuries be lessened come game time.