Penn State players adjust to 'thud' tackling in practice

Wednesday's health and safety news from the world of sports:

* Penn State football coach Bill O'Brien has instituted "thud" tackling, where no player goes to the ground during practices, according to the Allentown Morning Call.


O'Brien made the decision last spring primarily for injury-prevention reasons. With about 66 scholarship players this season, and a roster limited to 65 over the next four years, maintaining healthy starters is the team's primary objective.


"My reason for basically hitting once, maybe twice, a week is just because of our situation," O'Brien said. "If we had 85 kids on scholarship, I'd probably knock them around on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday -- limited on Thursday, of course. But I can't do that."


... O'Brien said conference restrictions on tackling have a "slippery slope" potential, because football still is a "collision sport."


"The safety and health of the players, there's nothing more important than that," O'Brien said. "But I still would like to document and study it. Let's have a pool of concussion studies, and let's look at some no-huddle teams and see what the injury rate is. I think that's the slippery slope, once you start telling conferences how much they can hit in a year."


At Penn State, where the toughest in-season practice was dubbed "Bloody Tuesday," tackling restrictions are new. And they have required some adjustment.


* The University of New Haven men's soccer team will be testing Triax Technologies' new Smart Impact Monitor, according to the Middletown Press. UNH will be the first college in the nation to use these high tech devices to monitor head trauma to its student athletes.


The sensors in the caps and headbands are called Smart Impact Monitors. They keep track of any hit an athlete takes to the head.


Any contact made to the head is registered on a chip inside the caps and head bands. The information on the chip automatically goes into a computer that tracks impact and the number of hits to the head an athlete has sustained.


The men's and women's soccer players demonstrated how they work Tuesday at a press conference. West Haven native Nicole Pacapelli, a senior on the women's soccer team, said they feel like regular head bands. She has never had a concussion, but said a teammate sustaining one can bring down the whole team.


"We've had people on the team with concussions and they've been out four or five months," the senior said. "It's really hurt us. It hurts them as players, that's a lot of time off to take. Hopefully this research helps coaches and athletes understand head impact better."


The soccer and football players will begin using the headgear immediately.


* WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C., showed how the Heads Up Football program is being taught in Fairfax County, Va.

* The Maryland Gazette reported that the baseline testing for possible concussions has begun across the state.

* The Enquirer-Herald in York, S.C., looked at how the Heads Up Football program is being demonstrated in its community.

* WCTV-TV showed how the new Georgia concussion laws are being implemented in Valdosta.

* NBC Bay Area showed how the newly opened UC San Francisco concussion clinic is helping Bay Area athletes.

* KCTV-TV in Kansas City reported on the use of Guardian Caps by high school football teams in the area.

* The Montreal Alouettes confirmed that quarterback Anthony Convillo is sidelined with a concussion, CBC reported.

* Agence France-Press reported on the furor over New Zealand suspending top cricket player Jesse Ryder for six months for testing positive for banned substances.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor

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