MIAA Driving for Player Safety

By Robbie Maher

For years, Americans had puffed away, leisurely smoking tobacco with the delusion that the smoke did not demolish their lungs. Like smoking was then, now, concussions appear to be America’s next medical delusion.

“It’s very similar to the tobacco fiasco,” Dr. Alan B. Ashare, chair to the MIAA Sport Medicine Committee, said.

“People kept telling us that tobacco didn’t cause cancer, and the same thing here, we are telling people that playing football doesn’t increase the risk of concussions. Of course it does,” Ashare said.

However, some states are “ahead of the curve” when it comes to concussion handling, while others are still “caught behind the eight-ball.”
As a state-wide effort to increase high school athlete safety, Massachusetts has passed state-wide legislation. In addition, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has applied several levels of limitations to practice activities that high schools have engaged in for decades.

These changes are designed to shield student athletes from full contact with one another until they have practiced for five full days.

Even after five days of practice that consists of no contact, athletes are not allowed more than 60 minutes of full contact-live action drills and game type simulations in individual practices.

Boston Public Schools Athletic Director Avery Esdaile has the best interest of Boston students on his mind, and is determined to keep kids safe.

“I don’t think it is a negative thing, if anything, it’s a gesture done in the right vein. The idea is to make sure that kids competing are safe,” Esdaile said.

In the midst of all of Massachusetts legislation and contact regulations, New Hampshire has made no alterations to either its current legislation or to its contact guidelines.

Even so, Ashare is certain that New Hampshire will eventually follow Massachusetts’ lead by placing a similar limit on contact.

“Everybody’s going to follow. I mean it may not be now, but they are going to do it later,” Ashare said.

The drive for player safety has stemmed from evidence highlighted by doctors in Massachusetts.

“All these medical professionals that have vetted this thing out and have reviewed what the proposal was and have given their reactions and how they thought it would work. From that standpoint, I got to rely on those professionals,” Esdaile said.

Esdaile believes high school sports have been run in a similar manner for decades, and now are changing at a rapid pace. At the current rate, the amount of contact permitted at individual practices could eventually be eliminated altogether.

“It’s great when you have a surrounding state like Massachusetts that has made this commitment, because it has opened the door [for other states to do the same],” Esdaile said.

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