The Illinois High School Association recently introduced several concussion-prevention initiatives after a lawsuit was filed accusing it of doing too little to protect student-athletes from head injuries. 

The program, named “Play Smart. Play Hard.” is intended to provide high school athletes with information on reducing concussions as well as other injuries. The IHSA has also created a player-safety council that will review head-injury policies. 

According to IHSA director Marty Hickman, the IHSA has been taking steps in the past years to increase student-athlete education about the risks of head injuries and how to prevent them, and these initiatives were not created as a result of the lawsuit. Hickman went on to say that the lawsuit made it clear that the IHSA needs to make it more widely known that it is working to better protect student-athletes.

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However, Joseph Siprut, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, disagreed with Hickman’s analysis about the programs, saying the suit was “lighting a fire under the IHSA” and that the programs were clearly put in place as a response to the legal action. 

Siprut did praise the initiatives taken by the IHSA, but still thinks more needs to be done and that’s what he hopes to accomplish with the lawsuit.

"The IHSA's initiatives are steps in the right direction, though still far from the more exhaustive and expansive remedies sought" in the lawsuit, said Siprut.

One of the mandates the suit wants to put in place is the requirement that medical personnel be present at all high school football games and practices. 

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Hickman argues that mandates such as this would be too costly for poorer schools and would result in some of these schools having to shut down their football programs.

The new player-safety council consists of a variety of people who should all bring a variety of views on the issues at hand. One of the members is Tregg Duerson, the son of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson. Dave Duerson fatally shot himself in the chest in 2011 and left notes for his family asking that his brain be tested for conditions related to head injuries he would have sustained from playing football.

Hickman thinks that this experience allows Tregg Duerson “to bring a very unique perspective to this.” 

The other members of the council are Illinois state Senator Napoleon Harris who was a former NFL player, as well as Tory Lindley, an associate athletic director at Northwestern University, and two high school athletes. 

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