Health guidelines for the start of football practice:
Preseason football practices begin with a five-day acclimatization period that applies to all student-athletes, including those who start practicing after the first day. Here is how the process is conducted:
1. All incoming student-athletes must undergo a medical examination administered by a physician participating in any preseason workouts.
2. During the acclimatization period, participants are not to engage in more than one on-field practice per day which can last no more than three hours.
3. During the first two days of that period, helmets are the only piece of protective equipment student-athletes may wear. After that, only helmets and shoulder pads may be worn on the third and fourth days of acclimatization. On the final day of that period, and on any days thereafter, student-athletes may practice in full pads.
The remaining preseason practice period follows these steps:
1. Teams can practice in full pads after the five-day period. However, an institution may not conduct multiple on-field practice sessions (e.g., two-a-days or three-a-days) on consecutive days;
2.Student-athletes can not participate in more than three hours of on-field practice activities on the days in which one practice is permitted;
3. Student-athletes may not participate in more than five hours of on-field practice activities on the days in which more than one practice is permitted; and
4. On days that teams conduct multiple practice sessions, student-athletes must be provided with at least three continuous hours of recovery time between the end of the first practice and the start of the last practice that day. During this time, student-athletes may not attend any meetings or engage in other athletically related activities (e.g., weightlifting). Time spent receiving medical treatment and eating meals may be included as part of the recovery time.
By Brian Hendrickson
NCAA student-athletes faced off against their first opponents of the fall season in the last two weeks.
They’ve lined up against intense August heat, following a game plan of proper hydration and rest periods to avoid heat exhaustion. They’ve matched up with conditioning drills as their bodies readjusted to the competitive physical activity. While the first games remained weeks away, managing these first steps – away from crowds and cameras -- are critical to their success in those arenas.
Football lays out specific guidelines for how those early practice sessions should be managed. Regulations detail the number of on-field practices allowed each day, the length of those sessions, at which points of the preseason certain pieces of equipment can be worn, and even the frequency of multiple-practice days. Those policies are designed to protect the student-athlete’s well-being and avoid exposure to a rapid acceleration of activity before their body’s physical conditioning is ready to handle the load.
Other fall sports face similar challenges, though. But they do not have specific policies to guide them. They must design appropriate practice plans that address heat, hydration, conditioning and rest periods which balance the needs for protecting the health of their student-athletes while at the same time preparing them for competition. As schools search for the best approaches, the NCAA advises its members to follow these practices: