DENVER (CBS4) – For the nearly 80% of Colorado high schools choosing to play fall football, practice officially starts Thursday, with the first games scheduled about two weeks later. Injuries typically come with the sport, but this season there’s some added concern because of what’s happening at the pro level.
When it comes to injuries, it’s been a rough start to the NFL season. Within the first two weeks of the season, countless players have been injured, including big names like Saquon Barkley and Michael Thomas. In Denver, the list of injured Broncos has also continued to stack up.
“I think it’s the absence of all the preseason and offseason conditioning, and then the lack of preseason games where people see real, live full-intensity action,” said Dr. Martin Boublik, Denver Broncos head team physician and orthopedic surgeon at UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver.
According to Boublik, the same injury problems could plague high school athletes who, after the recent reversal, are now playing a fall season. One issue may be how much summer training programs have varied between schools and districts due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“If that ramp up is faster than normal, as I think it would almost inevitably have to be with games scheduled three weeks from now, I think the injury rate does go up,” Boublik said.
At Riverdale Ridge High School, Head Coach Wayne Voorhees says injury risk has been one of the top concerns behind COVID-19. The team recently continued conditioning drills and weight training and will begin official practice on Thursday.
“We definitely weren’t coming in from a full offseason like we have in the past,” Voorhees said. “A lot of it was on kids to work out on their own and whatnot.”
Compared to normal preseasons, his team will have two fewer practices that are spread out over about the same amount of time, which he said could either allow his players to recover better or leave them less prepared for the season.
The team will also play a league game to begin the season, rather than a scrimmage.
“Some of it is just a freak thing and not being in position or whatever it may be, and that’s where our conditioning and that stuff is going to play into it,” Voorhees said.
For Voorhees and his staff, conditioning will be a big focus, but not the only tactic to try and prevent injuries. Voorhees said he will try to expand his team’s depth, which is limited by the new CHSAA COVID-19 guidelines, and keep kids from playing both offense and defense in a game.
“That’s one of the biggest things we’re talking about it trying to limit the amount contact per game, per kid, and we want to have as many one-way players as possible,” Voorhees said.
According to CHSAA bylaws, athletes must attend nine practices before playing in a game, and for football, there is a schedule for phasing into full contact.
Assistant commissioner, Adam Bright, tells CBS4 that teams are set to have one less practice than a normal preseason, but they had the opportunity to build their schedule to have the same amount of contact days as a normal year. Teams and districts also had the opportunity to choose the spring football season, he said.