Two-a-day football practices are essentially a thing of the past in the NFL. Now the NCAA is following suit. The two-a-day football practices that coaches once used to toughen up their teams and cram for the start of the season are almost as outdated as the wishbone formation.
As part of its efforts to increase safety, the NCAA approved a plan this year that prevents teams from holding multiple practices with contact in a single day.
The move has forced plenty of schools to alter their practice calendar, with many teams opening their preseason as early as this week. Officials don’t mind if it causes a few logistical headaches as long as it reduces the head injuries that had become all too common this time of year.
According to the NCAA’s Sport Science Institute, 58 percent of the football practice concussions that occur over the course of a year happen during the preseason. Brian Hainline, the NCAA’s chief medical officer, says August also is a peak month for catastrophic injuries resulting from conditioning rather than contact, such as heatstroke and cardiac arrest.
“There was just something about that month really stood out,” Hainline said. “We couldn’t say with statistical certainty if this was because of the two-a-days, but there was enough consensus in the room and enough preliminary data that it looked like it was because of the two-a-days.”
Teams still can hold two practices on a given day, but one of those practices can only be a “walkthrough” that includes no contact, helmets, pads or conditioning activities. Three hours of recovery are required between a practice and a walkthrough, though meetings can be held during that period.
Most programs were trending away from two-a-day practices long before this decision.
More than three-quarters of the 89 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that responded to an Associated Press survey on the subject said they conducted multiple practices on certain days last year. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, teams made sure one of those workouts had limited or no contact.
Those teams won’t have to change their approach too much.
Coaches say that because players are on campus working out all year, there’s no need to work them quite as hard once preseason practices begin.
“Back in the day, we used two-a-days to get in shape,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You weren’t there all summer. You didn’t come until the second half. They didn’t train from January until June like they do now.”