New rule in high school football aimed at preventing head injuries

An inside look at Clinton High School football as they wrap up spring practice.

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TENN. - On the field, things can get rough which can leave a lasting impact on a player's health off the field.

In the early days of football, helmets were made of soft leather.

Today, technology has led to more advanced helmets, making the game safer for players, but are they too safe?

"They are so good that they make players not leery of throwing their head in," said Dobyns-Bennett High School Head Football Coach Graham Clark.

That's something that Clark says is against the rules of football.

"Leading with the head is illegal, peeling back on a defenseless player is illegal ... new rule this year, you must lead with the hands on a defenseless player," he said.

These rules are in place to prevent concussions. Only four percent of football players at Dobyns-Bennett suffered from concussions last year. Clark says that's because of proper technique.

"We teach tackling the proper way, we teach blocking the proper way. We teach them how to lead with the hands, how to lead with the shoulder," he said.

High school aged players are especially prone to concussions.

"These kids are getting larger, they're hitting each other harder because they're getting bigger ... they're still developing, so their brains are still growing, and so they tend to be a little more susceptible to concussion type injuries," said neurosurgeon Jody Helms.

A simple concussion becomes more serious if a secondary impact happens before the first has healed. This is called second impact syndrome.

"They can have long lasting neurological effects, and long lasting brain trauma," Helms said.

The new rules are set now because of the potential for serious injury.

"You do have protection and you do have rules that lead to safety and more and more so ... no question our new rules are leading to a safer game," said Clark.

Clark says completely avoiding head injury in football is difficult, but teaching the proper tackling techniques and wearing the correct safety gear can lower the chances.

© 2017 NBCNEWS.COM


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