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Judge Dismisses Class-Action Concussion Suit Against IHSA

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A Cook County judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed last year calling for the Illinois High School Association to improve its concussion-prevention policies, putting a quiet end to the first class-action lawsuit filed against a prep sports governing body.

In his dismissal of the suit, filed on behalf of South Elgin football player Alex Pierscionek in 2014, Judge LeRoy Martin said the issue needed to be taken up by the state Legislature and that IHSA had enacted measures consistent with its scope of oversight.

"IHSA is simply a governmental entity charged with safeguarding student athletes," Martin wrote in his order of dismissal, going on to say "... Imposing broader liability on this defendant would certainly change the sport of football and potentially harm it or cause it to be abandoned."

The lawsuit called for the IHSA to take financial responsibility for medical testing of former football payers, have trained medical professionals present at all football games. Additionally, members of the lawsuit wanted new guidelines for screening players for brain injury and better concussion-related education for players, coaches and teachers.

“We maintain that the way to make high school football in Illinois safer is not through divisive lawsuits, but rather through collaborative efforts,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said of the decision. “We have followed this practice for years, and it’s obvious the Court agrees with our approach. ”

The IHSA argued that the demands brought by the lawsuit would be financially crippling to the IHSA, as well as individual athletic programs, likely leading to the cancellation of football at many schools.

Still, the IHSA has continued to bolster its concussion-awareness initiatives, including its “Play Smart. Play Hard” campaign launched this past spring. Martin recognized efforts such as these in his decision to dismiss the case, noting that the IHSA has acted to protect student-athletes and not "acted with intent to cause the injury," as the plaintiffs would have had to prove as part of their lawsuit.

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