The NFL has some of the country’s top medical experts looking into its overwhelming problems with traumatic brain injuries, but it seems as though high schools in Wisconsin have already figured it out. A recent study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in Washington, D.C. looked at a rule implemented in Wisconsin last year that significantly limited the number of concussions sustained throughout the season.

"Educating high school coaches to limit the amount of full contact would be an effective and economical way to help protect students from head injuries," said Dr. Timothy A. McGuine, a senior scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in a statement.

McGuine and his colleagues gathered data using the Wisconsin Interscholastic Sports Injury Research Network. More than 16,000 adolescent athletes from 103 high schools and athletic leagues participated in a series of studies that examined sports-related concussion rates following a rule implemented in the 2014 season that prohibited full contact during the first week of practice, limited full contact to 75 minutes per week during week two, and capped it at 60 minutes thereafter.

Sports-related concussion rates sustained in practice among football players participating in Wisconsin’s interscholastic athletic association were twice as high in the two seasons prior to implementing the rule compared to the 2014 season. Researchers defined full contact as a drill or game situation that results in full tackles made at a competitive pace where players are taken to the ground.

"This study confirms what athletic trainers who work with high school football programs have long believed regarding the association of full contact drills or practices and the likelihood a player will sustain a concussion," Dr. McGuine added. "This is probably also true for other football injuries such as sprains, fractures and dislocations."

McGuine’s research team calls limiting full-contact in high school football practices a “no-brainer,” especially since high school and college football players sustain the majority of their concussions during practice time. A study conducted by researchers from the Datalys Center for Sports Injury Research and Prevention in Indianapolis analyzed over 1,000 concussions — 66 percent of which were sustained by high schoolers. Around 42 percent of concussions sustained by high school and college players occurred during practice.

Source: McGuine T, et al. Effect of New Rule Limiting Full Contact Practice on Incidence of Sport Related Concussion in High School Football Players. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition. 2015.