WICHITA FALLS, TX - The traditional August football two-a-days have been banned at the college level by the NCAA. The move comes after more research continues to show links between the contact-heavy sport and concussions. The new evidence has suggested that constant blows to the head have led to players developing Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), suicides, memory loss, depression, and even dementia.
The NCAA wants football teams of all levels to be smarter about how players train in a violent sport. Officials say you'll never take contact out of the game, but reducing it is important to player safety.
"Having a little football practice, butting heads like billy goats as we might say," said Gary Diehm, Midwestern State University Head Athletic Trainer.
The Midwestern State Mustangs are preparing for their upcoming season a little differently this year.
"The NCAA has come in, and they have completely eliminated two-a-day practices across the board," said Diehm.
Years ago, Diehm said the school would host two sometimes even as many as three full-contact practices a day. The new changes are supposed to eliminate sub-concussive blows players take repeatedly in practice and allow the brain recovery time before the next time they strap up.
"I'm passionate about it. I love being out here with my brothers and my family. It's a whole new experience and teaches you a different way of life, teaches you how to be a man," said sophomore cornerback, Jovane Parkinson.
Parkinson also realizes that sometimes being a man means admitting you need to help.
"It's the old football theory of you take a blow, 'oh, I just got my bell rung,'" said Diehm, but that doesn't mean they didn't suffer a sub-concussive blow, meaning that the player had some sort of blow to the head that caused some sort of short-lived symptom. Now, if somebody shows any signs or symptoms, the athletic trainers have a protocol they must follow to treat the athlete.
"They make you sit out and do testing everyday to make sure you're right because they don't want you coming back because it could be really life changing," said Parkinson.
Parkinson believes the new rules are a step in the right direction for all players.
"I think it's a good thing. At the end of the day, nobody wants to play hurt. Nobody wants their teammates hurt. Everybody wants to be safe and have a healthy season in the end," said Parkinson.
"We want to make sure that 20, 30, 40 years from now, these kids brains are working at the same level they are right now or hopefully better and more educated once they leave Midwestern," said Diehm.
Teams can still hold two-a-days to some degree, but it must be film study or a walk-through. No conditioning can take place at the walk-through, and players can't be in helmets or shoulder-pads.