Eliminating full contact padded practices during the season and moving to a longer, 21-week schedule are major advances that will reduce the risk of injury by delivering more rest and less physical wear and tear for players, says the Canadian Football League (CFL) and the Canadian Football Players Association (CFLPA).
“Today, we stand shoulder to shoulder on the important issue of player health and safety,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the Canadian Football League.
“We have developed and agreed upon these changes in the spirit of partnership and in pursuit of a shared goal: making the game we all love safer for the elite athletes who thrill our fans with their skill and talent”
Brian Ramsay, Executive-Director of the Canadian Football League Players Association, said: "After increasing public awareness about our members’ safety over the past 12 months, we are excited that new CFL Commissioner Randy Ambrosie and the League worked closely with the CFLPA to make these important changes. Reducing full contact in practices while adding an additional week of rest to the schedule will be an immediate benefit to our members’ welfare. And the game of football."
The league and the players’ union have agreed to the following two changes:
• Effective immediately and for the 2018 season, the number of full contact padded practices allowed per team once training camps have been completed will be reduced from 17 to zero.
• Starting in 2018, the CFL schedule will expand from 20 to 21 weeks, to allow athletes more time to rest and recuperate between games. The schedule will still consist of 18 games.
This means each CFL team will have three bye weeks each season instead of two.
And while it’s impossible to exactly project the precise impact until teams have submitted their available stadium dates for 2018 and a schedule is put in place, preliminary modelling suggests the number of short weeks (teams playing on less than six days of rest) could be cut by two-thirds.
“Removing full contact from practices is going to not only positively affect the CFL and its players but will send a signal to all sports across all levels that player safety must continue to be improved. Just as full contact tackling was removed in practice years ago as a safety measure, this change will also reduce the risk of injuries, resulting in healthier players and a better game.” said Jeff Keeping, President of the CFLPA.
Both the league and the union vowed to continue to partner to grow the game and make it safer.
“Ours is a tough game played at tremendous speeds and with great strength by world class athletes,” Ambrosie said.
“I said when I was appointed Commissioner that their safety was my number one priority. I want to thank the CFLPA for working with me to introduce these changes. As a former player, I understand this issue from the players’ perspective and will continue to work with our players on matters of player safety.”