CHICAGO (AP) — With a potentially costly lawsuit looming over it, the governing body of prep sports in Illinois on Tuesday rolled out a series of concussion-prevention projects, including a new advisory council that has the son of a former Chicago Bear as a member.
The moves by the Illinois High School Association, or IHSA, come in the wake a class-action suit accusing it and its 800 member schools of doing too little to protect some 50,000 football players and other young athletes. The lawsuit, filed in November, was the first of its kind against a high school government body.
The package of new IHSA programs — dubbed “Play Smart. Play Hard.” — will provide athletes more information on reducing risks of concussions and other injuries. The player-safety council is intended to review head-injury policies.
The lawsuit didn’t prompt the IHSA to do more, director Marty Hickman said, but it did lead the group to conclude it’s not getting the word out about its efforts over previous years to adopt best practices on concussions.
“This is a broader education initiative that is not directly related to the lawsuit,” he said.
The Chicago attorney who filed the lawsuit, Joseph Siprut, said the litigation was clearly “lighting a fire under the IHSA” and that the new programs are clearly a response to the legal scrutiny. And he had guarded praise for them.
“The IHSA’s initiatives are steps in the right direction, though still far from the more exhaustive and expansive remedies sought” in the suit, Siprut said.
Among other mandates, the suit seeks requirements that medical personnel be present at all football games and practices.
Hickman has said that such court-imposed mandates would be too costly for poorer schools and would force them to shut down their football programs.
Former Bears defensive back Dave Duerson’s son, Tregg Duerson, who played football in high school and college, will be one of eight members on the new player-safety council. His father fatally shot himself in the chest in 2011 and left behind notes asking that his brain be tested.
“That allows him to bring a very unique perspective to this,” Hickman said.
Others on the council include Illinois state Sen. Napoleon Harris, himself a former NFL football player; Tory Lindley, an associate athletic director at Northwestern University; and two high school athletes.
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