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Oct 20, 2010 9:44 PM by Zach Thaxton

New NFL hard-hit policy: trickle-down effect at high schools?

A new NFL policy which will result in suspensions for players who commit dangerous and flagrant hits, particularly those involving helmets, is receiving a lukewarm reception from some in the sporting world.

The policy was enacted in response to several violent on-field collisions during NFL games on Sunday in which players suffered concussions.  An NFL executive said part of the reason for the new policy is to set an example for lower levels of the game, including high school.

"I think in the heat of the moment when kids are playing or NFL players are playing hard, they're going to play hard, so I'm not sure how they're going to temper that," said Rod Baker, head coach of the Palmer High School football team in Colorado Springs.  "Football is a collision game and there's going to be violent collisions and sometimes those things are going to happen," he said.

Baker says all Colorado high school football coaches take mandatory training to recognize the symptoms of concussions and to coach tackling techniques which promote safety on the field.  Players at all levels are also wearing helmets with vastly improved padding and materials meant to reduce the risk of concussions.  David Eichman, athletic director in Colorado Springs School District 11, says D-11 replaces between a quarter and a third of teams' helmets each year and refurbishes the rest to include the latest in padding technology.  "We want kids to be safe," Eichman says.  "That's our number one priority."

"They're doing everything they can to diminish the number of concussions, but unfortunately there's no way they're ever going to prevent it," said Gary Bowles, former president of the Colorado Athletic Director's Association and current owner of a sports equipment store in Colorado Springs.  "The brain is inside the skull and it's going to bounce around whenever you hit your head hard," he said.  His store, All-American Sports Central, is stocked with the latest helmet technology, which he says has improved exponentially in the past decade. He says the newer helmets to provide greater protection, but may also provide a false sense of security.  "You're driving an SUV, you think you've got more protection than if you're driving a little compact," he said, inferring the same concept applies to helmets.  Eichman agrees.  "There's some debate that with the equipment being better than it used to be, kids can hit harder, it can make them more aggressive," Eichman says.  "It probably doesn't hurt as bad when you're wearing a real good helmet."

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