Three changes to the interference penalties highlight the revisions for this year's National Federation Rules change for high school football. The penalty will now be from 15 yards from both the previous spot for both offensive and defensive pass interference. Gone from both of those penalties are the loss of down provision for offensive pass interference and the automatic first down for defensive pass interference. An additional option will now be given to the receiving team when kick- catching interference occurs. The offended team will not be allowed to take an awarded fair catch after enforcement of a 15 yard penalty which is walked off from the spot of kick catching interference.
A clarification to the scoring rules was made that stipulates only the touchdown scoring team may score on a try for point. Although a situation could occur on a try that, during regular scrimmage play, could give the defending team a safety, the clarification insures that cannot be the case.
A modification to the rule on the use of electronic communication devices has brought this rule into the 21st century. Under the change, devices such as phones, headsets and electronic tablets may be used by coaches to communicate to players only during a sideline conference and during halftime intermission. These devices may be used by coaches and non players on the sideline as long as they are not used to directly communicate with players.
One restriction regarding towels has been modified for this year. Teams are no longer restricted to the use of a white towel. The new rule will now allow for one solid color other than ball color or penalty flag color. Not every player must wear a towel, but when towels are worn, players of the same team must wear towels of the same color.
The rule on gloves goes into effect this season. Unless the glove is made of unaltered plain cloth, it must be made according to the NOCSAE test standard at time of manufacture. These gloves must also have a visible label; stating compliance to that test standard.
A couple of big rule changes related to safety were also added. When a player's helmet comes completely off during a dead ball action related to the play it will be judged as if the helmet came off during play. An example would be the runner whose forward progress is stopped and is being driven backward by the defender and the two opponents fall to the ground and one or both of their helmets come completely off. This is to be ruled as if it happened during the live ball action. Two other changes to the "helmet off' rule really show the focus on safety and risk minimization for the players and both actions will carry a 15 yard penalty. Initiating contact with an opponent whose helmet has come completely off is now a personal foul. Additionally, a player who continues to participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged after their helmet has come completely off shall be penalized for illegal participation. All other rules regarding helmets coming off have remained unchanged.
Participation in high school football across the United States remains the highest of all sports under the umbrella of the National Federation of High School Sports. The National High School Sports- Related Injury Surveillance Study was started to monitor rates and patterns of sports injuries among high school athletes. They are currently in their 8th year of collecting injury data. Their report of the first 7 years shows that football has the highest injury rate although the rates have dropped significantly since the last initial year. The most common injury in football has been concussions at 23.6 percent of all injuries. However, the proportion of football players who returning to activity the same day or within a week of sustaining a concussion has decreased to dramatically over the past 4 years. With this in mind, it s very clear why two points of emphasis were added within this year's rules. They deal with reconditioning and recertification of helmets and prohibition on contact to and with the helmet. KEEPING THE HEAD OUT OF FOOTBALL should be addressed as much as possible! By insisting on the "heads up" philosophy, we are trying to keep OUR players as safe as possible. There is not any football helmet manufactured today that can guarantee it is "concussion resistant". The concussion rate mentioned above also states that one-third of those injuries happened in practice. By practicing the proper and safe techniques of keeping the head up at all times, it should translate to using these techniques in the game. Remember the saying- "practice does not make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect."
Have a great, safe, season,
Paul Trzybinski- Interpreter, W.N.Y. Certified Football Officials