Tackling Concussions: Inside Columbia University's Football Practice

Columbia Football Practice
Photo credit Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The Columbia University Football season opens Saturday and while the games might be violent, the practices are not.

The crashing of pads is a thing of the past after the Ivy League banned live tackling at in-season practices three years ago in an effort to reduce concussions and other injuries.

"You know our hope is collectively we're going to reduce the amount of residual hits over the course of a young man's career and hopefully make it a safer, better game," said head coach Al Bagnoli, adding that the recommendation was made by the coaches. "We've done a really good job as a league and we've been very proactive as a coaching staff within the league to just make sure that safety is at the forefront of everything we're trying to do."

While some had expressed concerns that the ban would change the game, Bagnoli never saw it that way, telling Peter Haskell, "It does not compromise football.”

Senior linebacker Michael Murphy, a business and psychology major, worries about concussions and is a fan of the rule.

"Just being able to protect your brain is the most important thing about football," said Murphy. "It's Columbia, it's a hard school so you gotta be sharp in the classroom as well and I think if you're getting concussions it kind of messes up football, it messes up academics."

Instead of tackling each other during practice, players use dummies or “toys,” as Bagnoli calls them. As a result, the coach says the team conducts more tackling drills because players aren't hitting each other.

This year, California's governor signed a law limiting the amount of full-contact practice time for youth football and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association approved a similar proposal for high school football.