Additional Time to Evaluate Head & Neck Injuries Among Wrestling Rule Changes
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — In an ongoing effort to minimize the risk of injury in high school wrestling, additional time will be given to evaluate head and neck injuries when an appropriate health-care professional is present at a match.
In addition to the 1½ minutes of injury time allotted for each wrestler, an appropriate health-care professional will have a maximum of five minutes to evaluate injuries to the head and neck involving the cervical column and/or nervous systems. At that point, the wrestler would have to continue or default the match.
This revision in injury time in Rule 8-2-4 is one of 17 rules changes recommended by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Wrestling Rules Committee at its April 3-5 meeting in Indianapolis. All recommendations were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors.
A second injury to the head and neck involving cervical column and/or central nervous system in the same match shall require the wrestler to default the match. If an appropriate health-care professional is not present, all injuries to the head and neck would be covered by the same timeframe as other injuries. In the case of a wrestler exhibiting signs of a concussion, the individual would be removed from the match and could not return to competition in the absence of an appropriate health-care professional.
In another change geared to increase the level of offensive wrestling, stalling has been removed from the progressive penalty chart and will be penalized separately. In Rule 8-1-4, the first penalty for stalling will be a warning. The opponent will be awarded one match point on the second and third offenses, two match points and choice of position on the next restart for the fourth offense. A fifth offense for stalling will result in disqualification.
“By removing stalling from the progressive penalty sequence, officials will be able to penalize wrestlers more freely without complicating the matter when it is combined with other penalties,” said Elliot Hopkins, director of sports and student services and liaison to the Wrestling Rules Committee. “Removing the stalling call from the penalty progression will allow officials more freedom to call stalling earlier, more consistently and without hesitation when they feel it is warranted.”
Changes were made in several rules dealing with uniform requirements in an effort to ensure that male and female wrestlers are properly attired on the mat during competition.
All contestants wearing a one-piece singlet shall wear a suitable undergarment that completely covers the buttocks and groin area. Female wrestlers wearing a one-piece singlet shall wear a form-fitted compression undergarment that completely covers their breasts.
In other uniform and equipment changes, if shoelaces come undone, the penalty is an automatic stalling call. In Rule 4-2-1, hair-treatment items that are hard and/or abrasive, such as beads, bobby pins, barrettes, pins and hair clips, shall not be permitted. A legal hair-controlled device such as a rubber band shall be secured so as not to come out readily during wrestling.
“Hair that is manipulated poses no threat to either wrestler,” Hopkins said. “It is neither abrasive nor cumbersome. However, physical hair treatments do present a risk to either wrestler due to the hardness, texture or abrasiveness, and should not be allowed.”
In other changes, Rule 7-3-1 now states that “when the referee feels that either wrestler has failed to make every effort to stay inbounds during an imminent scoring situation, the offending wrestler shall be penalized for fleeing the mat. . .”
“This change allows the referee to only apply the technical violation call of fleeing when the action is related specifically to a scoring situation,” Hopkins said. “All other types of leaving the wrestling area as a means of avoiding wrestling would fall under the rule of stalling.”
According to the 2017-18 NFHS High School Athletics Participation Survey, wrestling is the seventh-most popular sport for boys with 245,564 participants in 10,775 schools. In addition, there were 16,562 girls who participated in wrestling in 2,351 schools.
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Release by NFHS Communications
NFHS Wrestling Rules Book 2018-19
The NFHS Wrestling Rules Committee and the NFHS Board of Directors believes there are areas of interscholastic wrestling that need to be addressed and given special attention. These areas of concern are often cyclical, some areas need more attention than others, and that is why they might appear in the rules book for consecutive editions. These concerns are identified as "Points of Emphasis." For the 2018-19 high school wrestling season, attention is being called to: cleanliness of uniforms and pads, braces that are properly padded and covered, stalling, special equipment procedure and preventing injuries from a false start in the neutral position. When a topic is included in the Points of Emphasis, these topics are important enough to reinforce throughout the academic year because they are not being given the proper attention.
Cleanliness of Uniforms and Pads
Communicable diseases are a major concern in the sport of wrestling and any infectious disease outbreak has the potential to end a team's season, or even suspend the sport across an entire state. It is imperative that ALL school officials, coaches and wrestlers continually use best practices to control the spread of communicable diseases.
A major aid in preventing the spread of communicable disease is to properly clean all wrestling mats and wrestling equipment. Cleaning wrestling mats prior to each use is highly recommended. An effective disinfectant is 10 percent bleach (mix one part household bleach to nine parts water). There is no advantage of using a stronger chlorine bleach and water solution than what is recommended above. Commercial disinfectant products are also available. Be sure that any product used states that it is effective against viruses, fungi and bacteria. Typically, the label will state the cleaner is bactericidal, fungicidal and virucidal. Please follow the directions on the label closely for the best effectiveness. When cleaning wrestling mats, it is recommended to walk backwards while mopping in an effort to minimize contamination from the shoes.
Likewise, it is imperative to clean all wrestling equipment and clothing daily. All workout gear should be cleaned after each practice. This includes towels, clothing, headgear, shoes, knee pads and any bags used to transport this equipment. In addition to cleaning wrestling equipment and wrestling mats properly, a few basic steps must be taken by all involved in the sport in order to minimize the risk of spreading communicable diseases. Communicable diseases are preventable. Following these steps will decrease the risk that these communicable diseases will be spread among the athletes in the wrestling room and/or during competition.
• Educate coaches, athletes, referees and parents about communicable skin conditions and how they are spread. (http://www.nwcaskinprevention.com/webinar/)
• Maintain proper ventilation in the wrestling room to prevent the build-up of heat and humidity.
• Emphasize to the athletes the importance of showering immediately after each practice and competition. Soap must be used. If shower facilities are unavailable, athletes should clean all exposed skin with "baby wipes" immediately after practices and competitions.
• Wash all workout clothing and personal gear after each practice and competition.
• Coaches or athletic trainers should perform daily skin checks to ensure early recognition of potential communicable skin conditions. Athletes must not be allowed to practice or compete if an active infection is suspected, even if the infection is covered. Any suspicious lesions must be evaluated by an appropriate health-care provider prior to an athlete practicing or competing.
• Athletes must not share practice gear, towels or personal hygiene products (razors) with others.
• Athletes should refrain from any cosmetic shaving (chest, arms, abdomen) other than face.
• Athletes should clean hands with an alcohol-based gel prior to every wrestling match to decrease bacterial load on the hands.
• Make certain that athletes and coaching staff are current on all required vaccinations (MMR, Hepatitis B, Chickenpox, etc.) and strongly encourage yearly influenza vaccination.
Braces that are Properly Padded and Covered
As defined by rule, any equipment that does not permit normal movement of the joints and prevents a wrestler's opponent from applying normal holds/maneuvers shall not be allowed. Any such equipment not limited to legal hair coverings, ear guards, facemasks, braces, casts, supports, eye protection, prosthetics and socks must fit snug against the wrestler's body, and if the equipment is hard and/or abrasive must be covered and properly padded with a closed-cell, slow-recovery foam padding no less than 1/2-inch thick. This precaution is for the wrestler and his opponent so that they can compete to the best of their abilities.
Wrestling is an aggressive endeavor and should be coached and executed in that manner. It is expected that wrestlers stay inbounds and compete. There is no passive wrestling. There are no provisions in the rules to allow a wrestler to rest. Backing off the mat out of bounds, pushing or pulling the opponent out of bounds, hands locked around one leg of an opponent without the intent of taking him/her down or preventing the opponent from scoring is considered stalling. Regardless of the position – top, bottom or neutral – stalling is not acceptable. The referee shall be firm and consistent in enforcing the letter and spirit of the rule. The referee shall be unwavering in penalizing a stalling infraction without warning or hesitation.
Special Equipment Procedure
Special equipment is identified in Rule 4 as any equipment that is not required by rule. All special equipment should be presented prior to stepping on the mat to begin wrestling. In fact, it is a requirement by rule that the referee will decide on the legality of such equipment. Any equipment that prevents normal movement of the joints and which prevents one's opponent from applying normal holds/maneuvers should not be allowed. It is reasonable for the wrestler to present his/her special equipment during the weigh-in/skin check period.
Preventing Injuries from False Starts in the Neutral Position
A number of injuries are occurring due to false starts in the neutral position. This is a preventable injury.
It is imperative that the official use proper mechanics to prevent neutral false starts. When starting the match in the neutral position, the official shall be positioned between the wrestlers to prevent a false start. The official shall sound the whistle when stepping back from between the wrestlers. This mechanic should be a visible reminder to wrestlers about the concert for unnecessary injuries that can be alleviated with attention to false starts.
2018 - 2019 WIAA Points of Emphasis
Our need for officials – We all realize that Wisconsin is in need of young officials. As in the past, we encourage all officials' associations state wide to adopt a mentoring program to help develop young officials. In addition, all high school coaches should encourage their athletes to consider obtaining a limited restricted license. This will allow them to officiate all youth through middle level wrestling events. There is no fee to be paid by them for this license.
Officials’ clinic – Will again be held in Green Bay on Nov.3rd in conjunction with the annual WWCA coach’s clinic in Green Bay. This is a great event – be there if possible. You will be contacted with more information. Associations, encourage your membership to attend.
Assistant referee - The AR has been utilized in the post season the last 4 years. It is here to stay! We must continue to use it whenever possible. Like anything we do, repetition creates confidence and excellence. Certification in its use can again be obtained by watching an on-line power point through the WIAA website. You will again be expected to view this short power point by Jan. 1, to be considered eligible for post season assignments. There is a handout on the responsibilities of the AR that is found on the official’s resource center of the WIAA website and is referenced in the upper right hand corner of this slide.
To avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings, coaches are encouraged to watch the AR PPT. The role and responsibilities of the AR are much different than that of the head referee. You can access it on the coach’s website and hopefully it will be made available on the WWCA website as well. It is about 20 minutes in length.
Website - It is very important that all officials visit the website frequently throughout the season to keep up to date on interpretations, situations and answers to a variety of questions. This is the best way we can communicate and keep everyone on the same page. Also, check out the great variety of available resources and see if anything new has been added.
Arm and leg compression sleeves
- Compression sleeves are becoming more popular in all sports. However, in wrestling they may certainly put an opponent at a disadvantage. Whether on the arm or leg, they should be considered illegal unless there is a valid medical reason to be worn. A compression sleeve that simply covers a knee (not to include the thigh or calf) and acts as a knee-pad or brace, may be allowed unless it has to be constantly adjusted or continually becomes dislodged. A similar sleeve on an elbow, should always be inspected and require a valid medical reason to be worn. It should not extend that far up or down from the elbow
Keep in mind that all pads / sleeves / braces etc. are considered special equipment and must be inspected by the referee prior to any dual or multiple event. If an athlete ignores this inspection and reports to the mat with an illegal sleeve, then we have a technical violation.
Legality of kneepads
This was addressed in mid-season last year. Knee pads are evolving in our sport and for the most part it is a good thing. Veteran officials indicate the pictured knee pads appear to be less bulky, less likely to move about, and made out of a material that is non-abrasive and not excessively slippery. In addition, they don't appear to create an advantage or disadvantage to either wrestler. The main concern is that some pads may be too long. The pad (including sleeve) should not extend approximately beyond mid-calf to mid-thigh. The longer that it becomes, the more likely it will be a disadvantage to the opposing wrestler. It is uncertain how wear and tear will affect the elasticity of these pads, so like in the past, if it continuously becomes dislodged or needs constant re-positioning, you should consider having the wrestler remove it.
Remember that knee pads are special equipment and must be inspected by the meet referee. His decision is final. If an athlete ignores this inspection and reports to the mat with an illegal pad, then we have a technical violation. Like a leg sleeve, it would require a valid medical reason to extend beyond the guidelines indicated above. The featured pads should meet these requirements for the great majority of wrestlers. We definitely do not want something similar being used as an elbow pad unless medically necessary. Remember, kneepads are not intended to be held up with tape. Remove the pad if tape is needed. Sometimes a modest amount of tape is necessary to hold up a sleeve that covers a brace.
Reminders from the Past
- Strip Tape - No wrestler will be allowed to weigh in with strip tape on their bodies. It must be removed prior to inspection and stepping on the scales
- Rulebook vs. Casebook – Once again, I encourage all coaches to read not only the rulebook but the casebook. The rulebook explains the rules in generalities but the casebook gives specific examples and situations on how the rule is interpreted and applied. Without reading the casebook, hard feelings and misunderstandings between officials and coaches will sooner or later arise. I highly encourage all officials and coaches to read and study both books.
- Skin inspections – Last year we adopted a simple modification on how we inspect skin. Inspect the front of the athlete, then say ”rotate”, followed by an inspection of the back side of the athlete. Many officials allow the athlete to rotate continuously and quickly and the result is an incomplete examination, often missing skin conditions. Please adopt this in your weigh in procedure.
- Zero tolerance for profanity – Remember that a wrestling match is an extension of the classroom. Officials, you must discipline inappropriate language. A USC or even FMC could be warranted in many cases. Coaches should not approve of it and officials should not accept it. There is no place for it in the classroom or athletic arena.
- Shoe laces - Laces must be taped to the shoe or secured by a locking device. You may not just tape the laces together.
- Scales - To prevent inaccuracies, weigh in scales must be on a solid surface – not on carpeting or a wrestling mat.
- Consecutive days of competition – By Wisconsin adaptation, remember that on consecutive days of competition, or when school may have been canceled and teams were unable to practice, the maximum weight increase that is allowed is 1 pound. It comes into play every year and often creates confusion. The only exception is the end of month growth allowance that often occurs just prior to regional competition.
- A default vs. Forfeits – There is still much confusion state wide about the difference between a default and forfeit. A wrestler defaults a match once wrestling begins. That means he may default any time after checking into the scorers’ table in the correct sequence. Why, because this is when wrestling officially begins. It requires that they take a loss. A forfeit means that the wrestler never reported to the scorers’ table. The wrestler that was scheduled to report, but did not, does not receive a loss. However, they will be ineligible to continue in an individually bracketed tournament if they did not discuss this with the meet manager and medical personnel prior to forfeiting. If the wrestler who took a forfeit wrestles again in an individually bracketed tournament he must take a loss for the forfeit. In addition, if the forfeit occurs in the final match of an individually bracketed tournament, a loss must be assumed. Rule 10-2 does a great job of further explaining this. Track wrestling follows this format.
- Blood time – Mistakes are being made. Time out for blood has two components, blood time and cleanup. Simply said, when blood time ends - cleanup begins. Blood time ends when blood is stopped and contained. There is no additional time allowed between blood time and cleanup. For example: if the blood is stopped and the trainer or coach is wrapping and/or taping a cut or a bleeding nose, blood time should continue. Once all plugging and wrapping/taping is completed and the headgear is in place (not necessarily snapped) blood time ends. You now record the time, and cleanup begins. If blood is on the head area, to effectively clean it the head gear does not have to be in place). Doing this any other way will not only needlessly extend the match, but also gives a "gassed" wrestler an opportunity to rest and gain an advantage.
2-3-4 Pt. Near-Fall – 2016-17 Season
The logic of the rules clarification is to not allow a defensive wrestler the opportunity to commit an illegal hold, technical violation, unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike act in order to negate a possible fall or near-fall. This supports the philosophy that the defensive wrestler should not be able to profit through this action.
Whenever a match is stopped, the addition of a near-fall point(s) and the penalty point shall be awarded. Stoppage is defined as: 1) stopping the match due to the penalty (the match need not be stopped during the near fall unless the referee finds it necessary to do so to protect the wrestler); 2) going out of bounds; or 3) period ends; 4) the near fall situation has ended.
When near-fall criteria are imminent, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be two points for imminent near-fall and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of 2-4 seconds, and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be three points for meeting near-fall criteria and one point for the penalty. Should near-fall criteria be met for a period of five seconds and a penalty point is to be given, the award will be four points for meeting the five-second count and one point for the penalty. Also, if the referee is making a delayed penalty call and the defensive wrestler maneuvers out of criteria (such as bellying down) or the offensive wrestler continues on to earn a two or three-point near fall, the penalty point is to be awarded, as is the additional near-fall point.
The offended wrestler may receive a minimum of two near-fall points and a penalty point, three near-fall points and a penalty point, or a maximum of four near-fall points and a penalty point for a total of five points. Should the penalty sequence come into play, the offending wrestler may also be disqualified.
Near Fall Points – Rule 5-11-2 – The NFHS interpretation of this rule has changed a number of times over the last 3 years. As a result, this has caused some confusion and misinterpretation. Keep in mind that it is not the intent of this rule to take the defensive wrestler off his back unless you feel it is necessary in order to prevent injury to either wrestler. Proper communication by the official to the wrestlers will usually avoid stopping the match during the near-fall situation. Should you have to take a wrestler off his back due to repeated unnecessary roughness or repeated unsportsmanlike conduct, the official could easily be justified in calling flagrant misconduct at that point.
If wrestling is stopped just prior to near fall criteria being met, then the offensive wrestler has earned a 2 point NF in addition to the penalty point (3 points total). If wrestling is stopped once criteria has been met for 2-4 seconds, then the wrestler has earned a 3 pt. NF in addition to the penalty point (4 points total). If wrestling is stopped after a 3 pt. NF has been earned (five second count), then a 4 point NF will be awarded in addition to the penalty point (5 points total).
The majority of time the official will not stop the match once criteria is met. In other words, when the near fall situation has ended, then the match will be stopped and the points will be awarded as described above. Just because you did not take the defensive wrestler off his back does not nullify this rule. They have earned and will be awarded the maximum number of points as described above. The defensive wrestler may have profited from this action, no matter how minutely it may have been.