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From the National Federation of State High School Associations

New Rule for 2012: High School Football Players Must Sit Out One Play When Helmet Comes Off

One of 8 rule changes for 2012 season

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (February 9, 2012) - High school football players will be required to sit out one play if their helmet comes off during play unless the reason is directly attributable to a foul by an opposing player under a new NFHS rule for 2012.

The addition to Rule 3-5-10 was one of eight rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee at its January 20-22 meeting in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. Beat up football helmet

"The committee made this rules change after reviewing data from multiple states regarding the frequency of helmets coming off during live-ball play," said Julian Tackett, chair of the Football Rules Committee and commissioner of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association. "It is the committee's hope that this serves notice for schools to properly fit players with helmets to reduce the incidence of these situations and remind the players not to take steps that alter the fit." *

In a press release on the new rule, Xenith, manufacturer of the X2 football helmet, expressed "support and gratitude" to the NFHS for the rule change, noting in its statement that its Fit Seeker® technology utilized in its helmets adapts to the head creating, it says, an instant custom fit which keeps the helmet secure during impact, thus reducing the likelihood of the helmet coming off.

For its part, another football helmet manufacturer, Shutt, said, via a response by an employee to a blog post about the new NFHS rule,  that it constantly stressed that the most important factor in extracting the best performance from a helmet is to have it properly fitted.

Other rule changes

  • Legal catch: Another significant change next season will be a new interpretation of a legal catch. A receiver now will be required to establish possession of the ball and contact the ground inbounds while maintaining possession - regardless of the opponent's action.  "In previous years, the covering official could have ruled that an airborne player attempting to catch the ball would have come down inbounds, but was prevented from doing so because of contact by the opponent," said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine and liaison to the Football Rules Committee. "Now, the player must establish possession and contact the ground inbounds for a legal catch."
  • More corporate advertising allowed: The Football Rules Committee also cleared the way for state associations and their member schools to place corporate advertising and/or commercial markings on the field of play. These types of markings previously were only allowed in the end zones and outside the field.  Rule 1-2-3l will now state that, while corporate advertising and/or commercial markings will be allowed, the markings may not obstruct the yard lines, hash marks or nine-yard marks.
  • Blocking below the waist.  A risk-minimization change was made to Rule 2-3-7 that changes an interpretation for blocking below the waist.  "The previous interpretation was that it was not a foul for a player to block below the waist if the hand(s) of the opponent was first contacted below the waist," Colgate said. "This revision changes that interpretation and stipulates that such action is a foul."
  • Kick-offs.  After experimentation in Minnesota and Iowa, the committee also revised Rule 9-3-8 to prohibit members of the kicking team from initiating contact (blocking) against members of the receiving team until the ball has broken the plane of the receiving team's restraining line, or until the kicking team is eligible to recover the free kick.
  • Play cards: The list of illegal equipment has been expanded to include play cards that are not worn on the wrist or arm (Rule 1-5-3c(8));
  • Grabbing a player's mouth guard as well as the face mask will now be a foul (Rule 9-4-3h);
  • Horse-collar rule clarified: Rule 9-4-3k has been clarified to provide guidance to game officials by adding the direction in which the opponent was pulled during a horse-collar; and
  • Glove rule postponed: The effective date of the NFHS's new glove rule was extended from 2012 to 2013. During the 2012 season, both gloves meeting the current standard and gloves meeting the new standard will be legal for play.

Game is in "great shape"

"The game of football at the high school level is in great shape, and the committee continues to review all available data to minimize the risk to participants," Tackett said. "A hallmark to the NFHS playing rules is the constant emphasis on risk minimization, as well as historic tenets regarding the balance between offense and defense and making the rules appropriate for the levels of the coaches, players and officials."

Football is the No. 1 participatory sport for boys at the high school level with 1,134,377 participants in the 2010-11 school year, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS through its member state associations. In addition, the survey indicated there were 1,561 girls who played football in 2010-11.

* Announcement of the rule came just days before a study, presented to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine meeting in San Francisco, found that making sure that football helmets fit properly, and that those with air bladder linings are properly inflated, may be two of the simplest but most effective ways to minimize the risk of concussion and catastrophic brain injury in the sport.

Source: National Federation of State High School Associations

Updated February 23, 2012