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New NFHS Football Rules Make Two Major Changes for Player Safety

New rules on blindside blocks and pop up onside kicks are the latest changes made by the National Federation of State High School Football Rules Committee. The newest rules are keeping with the current trends of minimizing risks to the high school football players.

The rules committee met January 20-22 in Indianapolis and the recommendations were later approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. “The NFHS Rules Committee’s actions once again addressed risk minimization, officiating, competitive balance and game administration,” said Bob Colgate, director of sports and sports medicine at the NFHS and the staff liaison for football.

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The definition of a blindside block established by the committee is a “block against an opponent other than a runner, who does not see the blocker approaching,” and now results in a 15 yard penalty. The committee considered such a player to be in a position vulnerable to injury. The rule further states, “Unless initiated with open hands, it is a foul for excessive and unnecessary contact when the block is forceful and outside the free blocking zone.”

Another rule change added to eliminate risk of injury deals with a pop up onside kick. The kick is defined as “a free kick in which the kicker drives the ball immediately to the ground, with the ball striking the ground once and going into the air in a manner as if it were kicked off the tee”. The kick will now result in a penalty for a dead ball free kick infraction.

The committee also dealt with an end of the game issue that once fell solely on the judgment of the head official. A team with a lead in the last two minutes of the game with its opponent out of timeouts could be guilty of an illegal procedure or encroachment penalty. The offending team could then reap the benefits of having the official start the clock on the ready for play signal rather than the snap, thus eating up valuable time. Now with the new rule, the offended team has the option to request the clock to be started on the snap in the last two minutes of the half or the game.

The committee expanded the definition of a defenseless player by giving specific examples. Also, non contact face guarding is no longer considered to be pass interference. The committee also dealt with uniform colors, post scrimmage kick fouls, striking the ball in the snappers hands as he attempts to make a snap, commercial advertising on the ball, a prosthetic limb coming off of a runner and whom may accompany the head official in the pre game coaches meeting.

Go to to see the complete list of 2017 rule changes.


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