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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Class Seeks Concussion Protocol Changes

(CN) - A former high school football star sued the body that governs secondary school sports in Illinois to force it to align its policies on sports-related head injuries with state law.

In a class action filed in the Cook County Circuit Court on Monday, Daniel Bukal lambasts what he described as the Illinois High School Association's "historically poor management of concussions," and asked the court to mandate changes that would improve injury prevention and treatment outcomes for student athletes in the state.

In 2011, Gov. Pat Quinn signed the Protecting Our Student Athletes Act, which was intended to address the high-profile issue.

The act requires individual school boards to adopt policies set out by the IHSA.

Among these were that students and parents be educated about the dangers of head trauma while participating in sports; that athletes who suffer concussions during a contest be removed from the game; and that athletes must be cleared by a health care professional before returning to the field.

However, the act "does not mandate specific guidelines on managing concussions and head injuries," the complaint states, putting the onus on the IHSA for failures in protecting students.

"Despite the passage of the 'Protecting Our Student Athletes' Act in Illinois in 2011, the IHSA's systemic failure to properly manage concussions persists," the complaint says.

It then goes on to charge the association failed in its duty to students on several requirements, notably by failing to mandate the removal of athletes who have suffered concussions during practice, and inadequately tracking concussions in order to combat negative trends.

In addition to addressing these short-comings, Bukal seeks the establishment of a fund to pay for "medical monitoring" of athletes after they graduate, noting that repetitive head trauma increases the risk of future health problems even without prior incident of concussion.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified sports as the leading cause of brain injury among 15- to 24-year-olds. An estimated 3.9 million sports and recreation-related concussions occur in the United States annually.

Bukal played football from 1999 to 2003 at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Ill. He was a team captain and broke school records as a quarterback.

But he now suffers from the lingering effects of concussions he sustained at practice and in games, including lightheadedness, migraine headaches and memory loss.

The Illinois High School Association is a not-for-profit body that governs interscholastic athletics in the state. Located in Bloomington, Ill., the organization represents nearly 800 member schools with tens of thousands of student athletes under its purview.

Bukal is represented by Joseph Siprut and Brandon Cavanaugh of Siprut P.C. in Chicago.

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