IHSA: Concussion suit could force some high schools to drop football

Friday December 5th, 2014

Illinois High School Association officials said Friday that some high schools may be forced to shut down their football programs if they can't meet the terms of a lawsuit brought by a former quarterback, according to a report from the Chicago Tribune.

In the lawsuit, Daniel Bukal says he suffered multiple concussions playing football and occasionally deals with memory loss, among other ailments, the report says.

The lawsuit, which does not seek monetary damages, alleges schools have had "patchy implementation" of existing state regulations and calls for schools to conduct baseline concussion tests on players before the beginning of the season, along with other changes to how head injuries are currently handled, according to the Associated Press.

Bukal, who went on to play quarterback at Notre Dame College in Niles, Ill., claims he and other players were at risk because the IHSA had not implemented concussion protocols.

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From the AP:

The IHSA did not have concussion protocols in place, putting Bukal and other high school players at risk, and those protocols remain deficient, the lawsuit alleges. It calls on the Bloomington-based IHSA to tighten its rules regarding head injuries at the 800 high schools it oversees. It doesn't seek specific monetary damages.

"In Illinois high school football, responsibility — and, ultimately, fault — for the historically poor management of concussions begins with the IHSA," the lawsuit states. It calls high school concussions "an epidemic" and says the "most important battle being waged on high school football fields ... is the battle for the health and lives of" young players.

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On Friday, Marty Hickman, the executive director of the IHSA, said that some schools already abide some terms of the lawsuit, but that the organization cannot enact sweeping changes unless its members agree on them, according to the Tribune.

Hickman also mentioned the possibility that, if the lawsuit succeeds, schools in wealthier districts would be able to keep their football teams because they could put the required safety measures in place, while schools in poorer districts unable to afford the new measures would have to drop the sport.

From the Tribune:

"If this lawsuit is successful, it will present challenges to high school football programs that are ... so far-reaching for many schools, they will undoubtedly adversely affect high school programs, and could eliminate some programs in Illinois," he said at a news conference.

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Joseph Siprut, the attorney representing Bukal, told the AP that he plans to file similar suits against other states' athletic governing associations.

​In July, the NCAA agreed to a preliminary settlement in a class-action concussion lawsuit brought by former college athletes. Siprut represents former Eastern Illinois defensive back Adrian Arrington, one of the plaintiffs in that case.

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