No Off-Season Practice Tackling in Illinois: New Rules to Restrict High School Football Announced

No Off-Season Practice Tackling in Illinois: New Rules to Restrict High School Football Announced

The Illinois High School Association announced new rules banning full contact during football’s off-season on April 22. The move is the latest example of state authorities attempting to address the safety and health of teens playing the sport. The restrictions do not apply to late-summer two-a-days or practices that come during the actual Fall football season.

With its new rules, IHSA hopes to reduce the risk of student concussions.

The Illinois sports authority had in previous years initiated stricter protocols for treating concussions and testing players’ brain functions after losing consciousness on the field. A state legislator attempted to limit contact to one practice per week for the state’s school-affiliated teams, but the bill lacked support.

Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, a neuropsychologist for NorthShore University HealthSystem, said the rules are a good idea and that they strike a “reasonable balance.”

“You’ll get a pretty wide variety of opinions on this, but generally, you want to reduce the contact to the head any way possible, and you want to give coaches the time to teach the technique,” Pieroth said.

But in an interview on Chicago’s WLS AM 89 radio, former Chicago Bear and current East Aurora High School Head Coach, Kurt Becker, expressed some skepticism about what these new rules would do to the sport.

Becker told hosts Roe Conn and Richard Roeper that the new rules could pose a challenge to coaches trying to assess the talent of young players. Sometimes, Becker said, “kids can look like Tarzan but they play like Jane when the pads come on. As soon as the contact starts happening,” he said, “kids can figure out that maybe this is not for them.” 

By further restricting full contact, Becker worries that it would be even more difficult to determine what players are capable of. “It does limit the amount of time [a coach has] to look at the talent you have on your squad,” he said.

The safety of young football players has become a subject of concern for many. In January of last year President Obama told the New Republic that if he had a son he would think about whether he would let him play football.

Still others think that this is all just another example of the “wussification of America.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at