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UW study finds high school football concussions cut in half following rule change

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A University of Wisconsin study has found that since the 2014 implementation of rules addressing contact in high school football practices, concussions have been cut in half.

The changes included prohibiting full-contact activity during the first week of training camp and then limiting it to no more than 60 minutes a week for most of the season.

UW researchers looked at concussions in the two years before the changes and the year after.

They found that concussions decreased 57-percent.

"You've taken the risk of football practice concussions well below that to sports like soccer and similar to what you see in softball or basketball," said Tim McGuine, the sports medicine researcher who authored the study.

Some football programs, like Homestead High School's in Mequon, were unaffected by the rule changes because they had already cut back significantly on the amount of contact in practice.

“We don’t get close to [60 minutes],” said David Keel, Homestead’s coach for 30 years. “We don’t tackle live but maybe ten minutes all season long. That’s a huge change from yesteryear.”

Keel says there are fewer injuries overall, and limiting hitting in practice hasn’t made his players any less ready for full-speed games.

“I got back from the Packers practice. They’re doing the same thing,” Keel said. “They don’t live scrimmage up there. Went to the Badgers this spring, they do the same. We’re all in the same boat.”

Josh Hunt played for Coach Keel at Homestead then walked on the Badgers team at UW-Madison in the late ‘90s. Now his two sons are coming up through the Mequon-Thiensville school district.

"I feel very confident with my kids in this program that their safety is the number one goal," Hunt said.

High school football practices can start as early as Tuesday.

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