One of the things I noticed on day one of my study of WFTDA rules was the inadequacy of language regarding blocking to the head. In light of the most recent rules changes I decided to trace it all the way from their first rule set in 2006 to today.
Rules 1.0 - Any form of blocking that is deemed unsafe by officials, specifically including blocking to the head, is illegal and a major penalty.
Rules 2.1 and 2.1.1 - The head is now defined as an illegal target area. Intentional contact to the head is a Rules of Engagement violation and grounds for expulsion, regardless of the amount of force used.
Rules 3.0 - The head is still defined as an illegal target for blocking, but there is no specific penalty for contact to the head during regular game play, only in the context of a fight.
Rules 3.1 - Initial contact above the head during a block is now a Misconduct penalty. They must have realized how dangerous it was to not have addressed this in 3.0. The rules do not say you can be ejected for hitting someone in the head while skating. This is only mentioned in the context of fighting, which is specifically defined as not during regular game play.
Rules 4.0 and 2009 - No changes from 3.1.
Rules 2010 - Blocking with initial contact to the head is moved to it’s own category of penalty: High Block. A block where initial contact is made to the head is now an ejection. There is no minor or ni/np high block.
Rules January 2013 - Maintains that “initial contact” definition, adds that “secondary” head contact is ni/np. This was incredibly dangerous because as long as you hit on or below the shoulder first you could “accidentally” follow through with a shoulder to the head. (that was an early CKDC suggestion) To get ejected, “intentional, reckless or negligent” contact to the head is required. The words “secondary”, “intentional”, “reckless” and “negligent” do not define force, only order and intent.
Rules June 2013 - The wording of no impact/no penalty High Block is changed from “secondary” to “incidental” or from a teammate. The definition of a penalty-worthy High Block is changed from “initial” to “forceful”. This is the first metric of force used in regards to head contact.
Rules 2014 - “From a teammate” is removed from ni/np High Block because contact with a teammate isn’t blocking.
Rules 2015 - “Incidental” is dropped from 5.2.1 no impact/no penalty High Block. It must now be both “unintentional” and “not forceful” to be illegal but not a penalty.
Where the rules stand today seems safe and sane for the first time since 2.1.1. Unintentional and non-forceful contact is illegal but doesn’t get you sent to the box. Forceful contact rates a penalty. Intentional, reckless or negligent contact with an opponent above the shoulders, regardless of the amount of force used*, gets you kicked out of the game.
With as serious as head injuries are, the number of athletic careers that have been ended because of them, and the life-long impact that can result it is shameful that it took this long to get here.
*as I’ve pointed out before, kissing an opponent (above the shoulders) during the bout, while a lovely and romantic gesture, will get you ejected according to 5.2.4, regardless of consent. Even an unsuccessful attempt at kissing can get you ejected, according to section 5.2.