- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 10, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - USA Football is amending rules for illegal hits and will allow game officials to remove players who show concussion symptoms.

The sport’s national governing body on youth and amateur levels made the changes at its annual meeting in attempts to make the game safer for youngsters.

The rule was changed to now include the shoulder or forearm, not just the helmet, being used on an opposing player above the shoulder _ not just in the head. Such hits will result in a 15-yard personal foul penalty _ and possible ejection. Illegal hits above the shoulder pads were a point of emphasis during the meeting.

The decision was made in part to clarify “illegal hit” language and also because the commonly used term “helmet-to-helmet hit” is deceiving, said committee chairman and Big Ten referee Bill LeMonnier.

“Helmet to helmet is just one component,” LeMonnier said Wednesday. “It is about hitting an opponent with your helmet, shoulder or forearm to anywhere above another player’s shoulders.”

USA Football also made all horse-collar tackles illegal whether the player tackled is a ball carrier or not.

In an effort to handle possible concussions more effectively, the organization strengthened a game official’s power to remove a potentially concussed player from the field.

Guidelines developed by USA Football in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention read:

“Any player who exhibits signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion _ such as loss of consciousness, headache, confusion or balance problems _ shall be immediately removed from the game and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health-care professional.”

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