NFHS modifies rule against helping injured competitors

July 13, 2016 / Cross countryTrack & Field
track fieldCross country and track athletes will now be given more latitude when they lend a helping hand to an injured competitor.

Previously, assisting a fellow athlete led to a disqualification, but beginning with the 2017 season, that will be changed. The National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) Board of Directors has approved a rule change that says athletes who help an ailing competitor will not be disqualified if an appropriate health-care professional is not readily available.

From the NFHS:

Becky Oakes, NFHS director of sports and liaison to the Track and Field Rules Committee, said the committee determined that this act of sportsmanship extended to an injured/ill competitor when a health-care professional is not readily available should not result in a penalty.

“The committee wanted to recognize the importance of appropriate healthcare of an ill/injured competitor as well as recognize that at times there may be fellow competitors who may need to assist others who cannot continue,” Oakes said. “Therefore, the committee felt that disqualification shouldn’t be the result of a sportsmanship act.”

The previous rule automatically disqualifying competitors faced mounting criticism in recent years. In 2014, a Wisconsin high school cross country runner was DQ’ed after carrying an injured opponent across the finish line, an act that was applauded by most as a gracious act of sportsmanship. In 2015, an Iowa cross country runner was stripped of his championship after assisting a fallen competitor who was not receiving medical attention.

This rule change is a long time coming. We teach athletes, especially at the prep level, that sportsmanship means more than championships, and it’s time we allow them to practice what we preach.

Click here to read more on cross country and track rule changes from the NFHS.

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