EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – It's the day many local athletes have been looking forward to all summer , the first day of high school football practice.
But this year teams across Wisconsin will see some changes to the game.
When players head out onto the gridiron this season they'll have to tackle new rules about concussions.
WEAU 13 News talked to local football coaches and athletic trainers about the changes.
Football teams from Memorial, North and Regis High Schools were out on the football field Tuesday for the first day of the football season.
“The WIAA has really cracked down and enforced new guidelines,” said Bryant Brenner, the head football coach at Regis High.
The new rules focus on concussions and how coaches, parents and players deal with them.
The rules say if a player in football or any other sport gets what appears to be a big blow to the head or body, the athlete must be immediately removed from play and checked out by a medical professional.
“The official on the field will make the decision, but when they get on the sidelines we can make an assessment. If it is (a concussion) we're looking at fogginess, dazed, confusion and possibly a loss of consciousness,” said Luke Howard, an athletic trainer at Marshfield Clinic.
If it's determined the student has a concussion they must be taken out of the game and get follow up care before they can get back under the Friday night lights.
WEAU talked to another local athletic trainer about what can happen if a player returns to the field with a concussion.
“There's potentially catastrophic to fatal second impact syndrome where an athlete could die or suffer permanent brain damage,” said Kurt Jacobson, an athletic trainer at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire.
Jacobson said awareness about concussions is going up and these rules changes will help educate teams about the risks involved.
Local coaches said they’re prepared for the changes.
“As competitive as we get as players and coaches; it's important to remember that there are more important things in life than football,” Brenner said.
“It doesn't change how we prepare or our excitement for game one. And it's just fun to be out here,” said Ben King, the head football coach at North High.
Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire said it’s now holding a concussion clinic.
A news release says parents or athletes can contact the clinic between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment to be seen by a health provider specifically trained in the management of concussions in athletes.
The annual Saturday Morning Sports Medicine clinic will also be held at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire this fall.
A news release says injured athletes can receive immediate diagnoses and treatment from 9 to 10 a.m. every Saturday, Aug. 18 through Oct. 13, at the fourth floor Orthopedics Center.