High School football rule changes designed for safety

Two football rules changes kicking off this season continue efforts to “minimize health risks in all interscholastic sports” as the 2017-18 fall season begins next week for member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

The biggest football rule change is with regards to the “allowable level of contact on a blindside block” and is aimed at increasing player safety. A blindside block involves contact by a blocker against an opponent who, because of physical positioning and focus of concentration (for example, while following a ball carrier on a kickoff return), is vulnerable to injury by a block coming from outside his field of vision.

Blindside blocks now must be initiated with open hands only; blindside contact that is forceful and initiated with other parts of the body outside of the free blocking zone will be penalized as excessive and unnecessary.

In addition to redefining the blindside block, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) sought to also minimize risk by eliminating the pop-up kick – that is, any free kick during which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, causing it to bounce only once and into the air similar to the flight of a ball kicked directly off the tee.

Kicks off a tee that bounce multiple times and then pop into the air remain allowed.

Other rules changes in football include:

• A defensive player will be called for encroachment for striking the offensive snapper’s hand or arm, or the ball, prior to the snapper releasing the ball to begin a play.

• Non-contact face guarding is no longer considered pass interference.

• A team accepting a penalty during the final two minutes of either half now will have the option of re-starting the clock at the snap of the ball rather than the referee’s ready-for-play signal.

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