Prep Voices : A periodic forum examining controversial issues in Orange County prep sports : TODAY: THE BLOOD RULE : Two Sides to a Story : Enforcing Rule Might Be Problem

The Blood Rule can have no con position. It is obvious that proper reasonable precautions have to be taken to contain the diseases that now threaten us on several fronts. There can be no argument with this concern.

However, there are some apprehensions in how or when this rule is to be applied. The definition of bleeding can be very ambiguous. Is it any display of blood or is it considerable flow? What determines the difference, the discretion of the referee?

There is bleeding on every play. Blood is blood. It doesn’t have to come out in a gusher. Given the degree of scrapes that occur in football, especially among linemen, and the part of the rule that stipulates players must sit out one play upon recognition of blood, a team could find itself in serious trouble at a given moment with front-line players on the sidelines. Or, at a key moment, a player may be dismissed from the field because he is bleeding or has blood--even someone else’s--on his uniform.

If a referee wanted to rigorously interpret the rule, he could effectively impact the outcome of any series of downs or even the game. There is room for caprice.


If the National Federation is really concerned about the contagion, don’t penalize the athlete. If he is bleeding that profusely, he’s probably on his way to the hospital.

Why not guarantee the integrity of the competition at the critical moment by removing the outcome from the referee’s decision?

A medical layman is going to be asked to make a decision. If that decision is based on whim, then there needs to be a more fixed measuring stick.

To take a timeout is fine. To lose a player unnecessarily for one play when treatment may not necessitate it is extreme. I don’t know of anyone who has contracted AIDS through athletic competition. Not only do you want to play with your best, but you also want to compete against the best.

That the referee protect the safety of the players is entirely reasonable and acceptable. But if we can take extra measures because of the extraordinary circumstances of this risk to ensure the safety of the player, we can do likewise to maintain the integrity of the contest itself.