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Utah AD Hill: Pac-12 football practice limitations won't change much for Utes

The Pac-12 made a big splash with Monday's announcement of its Student-Athlete Health Initiative, which will be a $3.5 million commitment in research grants aimed at improving student-athlete health and well being.

A majority of the focus will be on researching ways to limit cumulative head trauma in sports, particularly football where the rate of concussions continues to be a concern.

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Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said stricter limits will be imposed for contact in practices than the five days the NCAA currently allows. The limits will be announced at the Pac-12 media day on July 26.

While some college football fans might be fearful of any rules that could be perceived as softening the game, Utah athletic director Chris Hill said its likely the rules won't have much affect on teams.

Hill noted the Utes normally practice in pads just twice a week.

"In talking to coaches, they were concerned people would think they were hitting all the time, and that just isn't the case," he said. "I do think it's the way to go and we have been in line with that. What is exciting to me is the initiative in the science of all this because we have so much to learn."

In September of 2012, the NCAA's Injury Surveillance Program announced the rate of football related concussions has been steady over an eight-year period despite rule changes and initiatives to prevent the injuries.

During the 2011 season, 2.5 concussions were reported for every 1,000 game-related exposures. Concussion rates in fall sports in 2011, including soccer, field hockey and volleyball, was 1.9 concussions for every 1,000 game-related exposures.

The concussion rate reported in 2011 during football practices as 0.5 per 1,000 and 0.3 per 1,000 for fall sports.

However, there continues to be concern over the cumulative buildup of hits, which has led to more limitations on practices.

"We do feel we need to do the right thing and this initiative is exciting for it," Hill said.

Hill also said he needed to do the right thing and, like Scott, wasn't very optimistic a deal with DIRECTV will ever be reached.

"My mindset now is I want to tell people to not count on it," he said. "I'm taking the approach there are no promises anything will happen."

- Lya Wodraska

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